Talented players trial for fledgling development team

Alicia PereraPilbara News
A group of players, coaches and officials at trials for the inaugural Pilbara Development Squad.
Camera IconA group of players, coaches and officials at trials for the inaugural Pilbara Development Squad.

Local football leaders have launched the beginnings of a Pilbara football development squad in the first step towards creating a pathway to elite level for the region’s most talented players.

Footballers in the City of Karratha born in 2001-2004 are being invited to trial for selection to a Pilbara team which will play the Gascoyne development squad late next month, in front of talent scouts from Swan Districts and the West Coast Eagles.

The selected players will form the basis of a soon-to-be formalised development squad for the Pilbara, and organisers hope to take that a step further in early 2020 by setting up an elite academy for the very best from across the region.

The initiatives are a collaboration between a handful of local club coaches and Swan Districts, supported by WA Football Commission Pilbara regional manager Vicki Agnew, who are keen to progress development opportunities for young players.

Pilbara Swans head coach Mike Fountain, who is also a former WAFL coach, said there were players in the Pilbara “equal to if not better than” those in the metropolitan area, but they needed more opportunities to get noticed by the right people while still juniors.

“We know that there are kids out there that have aspirations to play football at an elite level, and at the moment their only real pathway is through grassroots club footy,” he said.

“This type of program is going to potentially open some doors for those kids who really want to aspire to be the best footy players they can be.”

Agnew said for about the past 10 years Pilbara players had not had any designated development program and only occasional opportunities for talent identification, impacting on their performances in Perth.

“A lot of our kids, even though they might have the skills, sometimes when they go down to Perth their fitness lets them down, because they’re playing against kids in development squads that have been training for nearly 12 months of the year,” she said.

“The (Pilbara) development squad can help them tap into all aspects of football — physically, fitness-wise, skill-wise and mentally — so they are prepared, rather than going down and looking like country cousins.”

The first trial for the Pilbara Swans team was at the weekend, with the second to be held this Sunday at 6pm at the Karratha Leisureplex Oval. Players must have attended both trials to qualify.

After weekly training sessions, the selected team members will travel to Exmouth to play the Gascoyne Development Squad on November 30-December 1.

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