Auckland Football Federation has named its women’s squad for the forthcoming National Women’s League competition scheduled for Wellington on February 24-26.
AFF Futsal finished runners-up in last year’s competition after a heartbreaking penalty shoot-out defeat in the final to Central Futsal-Manawatu at the ASB Sports Centre.
Competition for places is set to be fierce with top quality goalkeepers Danielle Bradley and Rivalina Fuimaono in the mix.
Fixos Shivy Anthony, Gemma Lewis and Jenna Dodd make the cut as do skipper Hannah Kraakman, Dayna Manak, Jess Verdon, Erinna Wong, Annie Byrne, Maisy Dewell and Emily Gillion.
The vastly experienced Rebecca O’Neill and fellow pivot Maxine Cooper will also be key figures.
Milly McWhirter and Abby Murphy are non-travelling reserves.
Coach Nic Downes says the calibre of the squad ensured AFF Futsal would be competitive when the action starts at the end of this month.
“We got a wider training group together in January and we were able to put a three week programme into place with them and take a close look at everyone on the court.
“We worked through some Futsal specific training sessions and from there and we’ve put together what we firmly believe is a very strong squad of 14 players.
“There’s a lot of depth there and it’s the strongest squad we’ve been able to select and there’s a lot of Futsal experience in there already which puts us in a good place.
“We only have a couple of players with limited Futsal experience but majority have had involvement previously and competed in competitions with our U-19, senior women’s or via the university pathway,” he said.
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One motivating factor was the prospect of a women’s national and national age-group team. Downes said it was easy to detect the excitement among the AFF Futsal squad because of this development.
“There’s definitely a bit of buzz going on for some of the girls who have been playing for a couple of years. It’s always being talked about but nothing came to fruition.
“For some of our players this offers a realistic pathway and with a national team opportunity presenting itself that could change perception of women’s Futsal more widely,” he said.
The draw for the Women’s National Futsal League pitted AFF Futsal in a group with Mainland, Northern and Hawke’s Bay. The objective for AFF Futsal is set high with memories of last year and wanting to improve driving the camp forward.
“We’ve seen the draw and the first objective is to qualify from the group stage in top spot and then look to push on.
“We finished runners-up last year and a lot of the staff and players returning we definitely want to push on in 2017. The girls are fully on board with that target.
“Our aim as coaches is to improve their individual and team play to help them succeed and achieve their goals. From an AFF Futsal perspective we want to see as many players as we can make it into the national team and national age group team set-up,” he said.
The National Women’s Futsal League kicks off on Friday 24 February and concludes on Sunday 26 February in Wellington.
Full Draw available here.