Several current and former Olé Football Academy players are setting their sights on winning the ISPS Handa Premiership, which starts this weekend.
Four of those players will be turning out for one of the most successful sides in the history of the national league, with Cam McCowatt, Dalton Wilkins, and Owen Parker-Price joining Harry Edge at Auckland City.
The Navy Blues have finished top of the table seven times and won six grand finals in their 13 years in the league, but have fallen to Team Wellington in the final in both of the last two seasons.
They’ve had their revenge by beating the Wellingtonians in the OFC Champions League final, but this Sunday’s opening game is an opportunity to lay down an early marker against a team expected to be their closest rivals again this season.
Auckland City coach Ramon Tribulietx told the club website that he is very happy with the squad he has assembled, especially the young players like McCowatt, Wilkins, and Parker-Price.
“We’ve assembled a very good team. The young ones we’ve brought in are very competitive. There’s always a question mark over how quickly they adapt but they’re very good players. I’m very happy with their progress to date.”
The match with Team Wellington also doubles as the Charity Cup match, which Auckland have won four times previously.
Another player looking for a return to the finals is Hawkes Bay United midfielder Alex Palezevic.
Palezevic, 20, joined Hawkes Bay while still in high-school and the former New Zealand U17 and U20 representative is itching to help The Bay reach the grand final after losing in the semis in each of the last five seasons.
“We’ve always tripped up on the last hurdle but we should again be contenders for the OFC . . . It’ll probably take that little extra push to get there” he told Hawkes Bay Today.
Down in Nelson, Tinashe Marowa has made a surprise return to Tasman United as he looks to follow-up a breakout campaign that earned him an extended trial with the Wellington Phoenix.
Marowa spent the entire pre-season with the A-League club, playing in several friendlies and even the FFA Cup, but after failing to secure a full-time contract has decided to return across the Cook Strait.
Tasman finished 8th in their inaugural campaign and coach Davor Tavich told Stuff.co.nz that Marowa’s return will be big in helping them improve this season.
“T is coming back and it’s very nice to have him back. He’s a lovely young man and obviously a great footballer. He was a big part of the Tasman set-up last year so to have him back is a great bonus for us,” he said.
Even further south another two Olé products are getting ready to help Canterbury United towards what would be The Dragons’ first title should they go all the way this year.
Christchurch-raised Liam Gerathy has returned home after three years at Olé, while Juan Chang, a past Olé apprentice is into his third year at English Park.
The Dragons finished sixth last year after falling away late in the season.
They have to wait until Sunday the 22nd to get their campaign underway with a home game against Waitakere United.
Football in Wellington 14-15 October
Team Wellington Youth vs Eastern Suburbs Youth – 2pm Petone Memorial Park
Team Wellington vs Auckland City – 2pm David Farrington Park