Words: Nick Brown
Friday 4 October 2019
AUCKLAND, New Zealand - Kris Bright's Junior Navy Blues start their National Youth League title defence with one of the hardest games of the campaign when they take on Eastern Suburbs AFC at Kiwitea Street on Saturday.
The former All Whites and Navy Blues striker has stepped into the head coach role after assisting Camilo Speranza during last year's run to a sixth title and can't wait to get started.
"It's fantastic the club have trusted me with such an important role within the club.
"It's exciting because we have a lot of good young players coming through and we've had a lot of success over the last couple of years.
"Quite a few players have moved onto the first team and it's a big responsibility and hopefully we can produce some players capable of being part of the first team," he told www.aucklandcityfc.com.
AUDIO - "Coaching the Junior Navy Blues is a big responsibility" - Kris Bright
With just nine games in the competition, the National Youth League is more of a sprint than a marathon and every point is precious and Bright says the Lilywhites present a difficult proposition.
"It'll be tough. Eastern Suburbs are a very good side and a very club. We drew 0-0 with them last season and it was our toughest game of the season and they'll bring that again.
"As far as first up games are concerned it's definitely not an easy game at all and it'll be a good game with a lot of good young talent on show.
"“I think what Eastern Suburbs have done over the last couple of years is that they're very well organised everyone knows their roles they know their responsibilities they’ve got some very good players over there now.
"If they’re anything like their Lotto NRFL Premier Division side or their ISPS Handa Premiership outfit then they are going to be very good," he added.
While Bright's thoughts are focused on preparing players for first team action he has also worked closely with three Junior Navy Blues starlets who are headed to Brazil with first team coach Jose Figueira to the FIFA U-17 World Cup.
AUDIO - "Eastern Suburbs AFC are a tough opponent" - Kris Bright
Bradley Wilson, Nathan Lobo and Luca Taylor have made a big impression at Auckland City FC and their winter clubs and Bright has high hopes for the trio as they begin the countdown to their South American adventure.
"It's fantastic for them. The pinnacle of your career is to represent your country and do that at a World Cup is going to be an amazing experience for them.
"Luca Taylor has been part of first team training in every session so far while Bradley Wilson and Nathan Lobo have been part of the Auckland City FC Academy and National Youth League team before.
AUDIO - "We wish Nathan, Bradley and Luca all the best" - Kris Bright
"It's great for young Auckland City FC players in the pathway system that they can see that we're trying to produce these players and they do go on to play for New Zealand and the world stage.
"We wish these players all the best and although we only get them for a handful of games in the league but for their development and life experience and from a football perspective Brazil will be fantastic for them," he said.
The action gets underway at Kiwitea Street at 2pm on Saturday 5 October 2019.
Elsewhere, Hawke’s Bay United host Waitakere United, Wellington Phoenix host Canterbury United while Hamilton Wanderers travel to Nelson to take on Tasman United on Saturday afternoon whilst on Sunday Team Wellington host Southern United.
National Youth League
Saturday 5 October 2019
Auckland City FC v Eastern Suburbs AFC
Kiwitea Street, Auckland
Kick-off: 2pm NZST
AC squad (chosen from): 1. Sam BOTTOMLEY (GK), 2. Nathan LOBO, 3. Jackson WOODS, 4. Nicholas MILICICH, 5. Dhanush CHANDRA, 6. Callum McNEILL, 7. Matthew HODGSON, 8. Miles PALMER, 9. Tawanda MAROWA, 10. Matthew ELLIS, 11. Deandre VOLLEHOVEN, 12. Jesse GAGE, 13. Malcolm YOUNG, 14. Colin HOLTHUIS-SPANN, 15. Harrison FREEMAN, 16. Corban PIPER, 17. Thomas DRILIEN, 18. Luca TAYLOR (GK), 19. Bradley WILSON, 20. Louis MIDDLEDORP, 21. Finn McCRACKEN, 22. Micaiah PAPA, 23. Aidan CAREY.
Head coach: Kris BRIGHT
Assistant coach: Adam BANNISTER
Goalkeeper coach: Jacob SPOONLEY
Property Steward: Matthew FRANICH
Team Manager: Christian DAWSON
Sat 26 Oct 2019, kickoff TBA, venue TBC