By Max Fletcher
Ambitious Waikato club Northern United are targeting promotion to the Lotto NRFL Southern Conference within two years.
With about 950 registered players, the club wants to provide a pathway for boys keen to play top senior football without having to leave for clubs at a higher level.
“Playing-wise, we are the biggest club in Hamilton and probably Waikato,” men’s first team coach Ricky Broderson says.
“We are losing our youth players to the bigger clubs in Hamilton — the likes of Hamilton Wanderers and Melville United. So our main goal is to retain those players and have a pathway for them to be successful at our club.”
Northern United’s men’s first team won a league/cup double last season, taking the Waikato Division 1 title and the Waikato Men’s Knockout Cup.
Broderson says the club wants a shot at next year’s WaiBOP League One title and, with it, a chance for promotion to the NRFL Southern Conference.
“I set out a 3-year plan, and that was to basically in three years to get to the Southern Conference league. So there is a bit of pressure there. We did have a successful first season and hopefully, we look to be on track for next season as well.”
Broderson (37) has brought playing and coaching experience to Northern United, a club that provides netball and cricket opportunities for youngsters, as well as football.
A former New Zealand U-17 and U-20 player, Broderson made more than 300 appearances in the Northern Premier League, with stints at East Coast Bays and Hamilton Wanderers. He played National League football for Hawkes Bay United, Auckland City and Waikato FC.
He has coached at East Coast Bays and Hamilton Wanderers, and assisted the late Peter Davies with the WaiBOP youth team.
Long-term, Broderson sees continued growth for the club whose teams play at Ashurst Park, Discovery Park, Hare Puke Park and Korikori Park.
“The long-term plan for Northern United is to be as successful as we can in the senior space for both men and women, and also to retain our younger players’ memberships.”
But what is the main goal for Northern United’s men’s first team next season?
“Win, basically. Our goal is to win the Waibop League One competition and push for NRFL Southern Conference.
“We are wanting to retain at least 90 per cent of the squad we had this year and also bring in some new blood.
“We are also looking to build another team into our senior space. Almost like a reserves or under-23 team in the hopes of preparing for the Southern Conference when that time comes.”
United to focus on bringing youth players into first team
In the meantime, he looks forward to his players having time off over the summer and returning early in 2024, “to get them fit and raring to go.”
The double-winning team had its share of promising youth players, but will next year’s squad rely more on youngsters?
“Absolutely. You know, the idea of this team or project was to start afresh and, initially, I needed a balance of young and senior players to get the balance right.
“But ultimately, those senior players that I have, they are getting on the wayside, and that’s no disrespect to them because they have still got it but they’re not going to around forever, so I have got to look to build for the future, which means younger players.”
And coaching goals for next year?
“Aside from the winning part, I think it’s just having an environment where the players can have fun but a challenge at the same time,” Broderson says.
“I’m a great believer that you’ve got to enjoy what you are doing, so if I can create that environment where they want to come to trainings and having fun but still learning at the same time and a bit of banter as well, I think that’s important.”
Waikato-based Max Fletcher is a writer for Friends of Football. He’s also a qualified football and futsal referee.