Any excitement about being picked for the region’s top women’s football team may not last long, as coach Ryan Stewart prepares to put them into a world of hurt.
The Tasman United women’s football team was, late last year, granted entry into the Mainland Women Premier League, featuring the top club teams from Christchurch. In December, Ryan was selected as coach and he quickly began the process of picking his squad.
With trials and selection now out the way, the Irishman is preparing to get his team fit – really fit.
“I’ve already given them a wee taste of it and many of them didn’t like it, but that’s what it takes at this level. Fitness is something we’re going to work really hard on. The game speed is a lot quicker down there and they’ve got to be able to keep up with it,” he says.
“The standard of the trials has been excellent, so we just need to get down to work now and look forward to the first game.”
Ryan has selected a squad of 20 with 17 to travel to Christchurch each time, where they will play double headers in an effort to ease travel costs. “We’re still getting established and we don’t have the funds to fly, so this season we’ll be driving down which is a big commitment from the players, so fair play to them.”
It’s also a big commitment from the coach, who was one of Nelson Suburbs’ top players in the Mainland Premier League last season and has also played as an over-aged player for the Nelson Falcons. He says coaching is now his first priority.
“I coached ladies football at Coastal Spirit [in Christchurch] before I moved here and I really enjoy it. They learn quicker to be honest and you see results quicker. Girls seem to develop that little bit quicker. The women’s standard in New Zealand is always fantastic and I think Nelson is a good region for women’s football.”
The squad is young, with the oldest player 25 and the youngest just 13. Ryan says that will be an advantage. “They are technically very good and as a squad I think they’ll be very together and they’ll be a hard team to beat when they put their mind to it.”
For those who missed out on selection, all is not lost. Ryan says he will be calling players up from the club teams as needed, so those who impress in the Nelson Bays Football competition could still force their way into the Tasman United team.
Ryan says his team won’t be the competition’s whipping girls. “Definitely not. We’ll definitely be competitive, we will push a lot of teams.”
The team is also still looking for a naming-right sponsor. If you’re interested, call Ryan on 027 248 0170.
The squad is: Lydia Langbein, Nicole Hyland, Anna McPhie, Briar Luff, Ariana Whittington, Amber Buxton, Holly Thomas, Tayla Hampton, Tiana Williams (captain), Matilda Dawson, Ruby Smith, Hannah Mckay-Wright, Jasmine Donald, Ellie Kershaw, Rhea Hopkinson, Amelia Abbott, Holly Moffatt, Kelsey Barrett, Elsie Brownlie and Dallas Bradley.