Elijah Just and Josh Rogerson are used to playing in the wet.
The duo, named in New Zealand’s under-17 squad, left Auckland on Tuesday for Tahiti with the hope of qualifying for the FIFA Under-17 World Cup in India this October.
Grouped with Samoa, the Solomon Islands and Fiji, New Zealand need to win the tournament – which starts this week and concludes on February 24 – in order to book a place to the 2017 FIFA U17 World Cup.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to be involved and the team spirit is really good,” Just, 16, said.
The whittling of the New Zealand squad to 18 took months ofwider training group camps and trials by coach Danny Hay and his team.
For Just and Rogerson, all the hard work has been worth it.
“He [Hay] lays everything out and you know where you stand,” Just said.
“We haven’t played long in the New Zealand set-up, but I think we’re getting comfortable with that style.
“We just have to get used to it, quickly, if we want to win this tournament.”
Both are expecting a physical style of play from their Pacific Island opponents.
The teenagers attend Olé Football Academy in Porirua, and came through the ranks of Western Suburbs junior teams.
That experience is going to serve them well on the trip. Torrential rain is forecast for most of their time in Tahiti, but that’s almost normal for the pair.
“We’ve grown up playing in wet weather,” Rogerson, 17, said.
“We’re lucky that Endeavour Park [in Whitby, Wests’ home ground] drains well – it’s always been a brilliant home track and we know it pretty well.”
While Just came to Porirua as a 12-year-old, Rogerson has been a Wests boy since he could dribble a football.
“The environment is so good – they want everyone to play and enjoy the game and the junior side of the club has always been strong,” he said.
Just said Wests had been supportive of its players seeking national honours and they looked forward to playing for the club in the Central League this winter.
Hay said the New Zealand squad had excellent technical players and a lot of quality.
“It’s a sign of the changing nature of the game in this country.”
Article credit to Kris Dando of Kapi-Mana News, for the original article click here