Sunday saw the kick-off of the PlayStation 4 National Premier Leagues 2017 season for junior footballers. For the Brisbane Strikers, that meant all five boys’ teams from the Under-12s to Under-16s were in action in the northern reaches of Brisbane against their counterparts from Moreton Bay United Jets.
In trying conditions the five Strikers teams achieved, for the record books, two wins and three losses (see the “Weekend Scoreboard” on our website) with fluctuating scorelines. But regardless of the scores, High Performance Unit manager Russell Hicks pronounced the Strikers’ coaching staff broadly happy with what they had seen from their players.
Hicks said that, in keeping with the club’s development ethos in the junior ranks, results were not the main focus and that the coaching staff were focused on other things.
“The expectation (on our players) is always the same,” Hicks said. The result is secondary to performance and (the type of) performance expected depends upon the age group.
“So, when we are looking at the twelves and thirteens, we are particularly looking at their ability to demonstrate their skills and their ability to go out there and show they are willing to have a go at that, and not be frightened by the fact that they are playing a game of football.”
The Under-12s registered a 2-0 win, while the Under-13s went down 1-6. But odd though it may seem to those used to measuring the merits of footballers of any age group by the scoreboard, Hicks said he had been impressed by both Strikers teams.
“Yesterday, both of those teams and particularly the twelves were outstanding in their demonstration of the skills that they learn at training,” Hicks said.
“It was phenomenal football from the Under-12s. The thirteens did it a bit tough on the scoreboard, but this is the reason why we have to put our emphasis on skills, and demonstration of skills. The result didn’t detract from the actual skills shown by our players.”
“So, all in all from those twelves to thirteens it was a very good start to the season but particularly the twelves because that was their first competition game – so there would have been a lot of nerves for their first time out.”
First-time nerves did not, of course, apply to the Under-14, Under-15 and Under-16 teams, all of which had prior PlayStation 4 NPL seasons under their belts. For them, the expectations were somewhat different.
“When you get to the next three teams – the fourteens, fifteens and sixteens – you are going more into that game training phase,” said Hicks.
“That’s where we expect to see them not only continuing the showcasing of their skills – their first touch and all those key components of the game – but also really start looking at how they start interacting with each other and how they start playing as a team and fulfilling the Strikers way of playing. The pressing and when we win the ball keep possession and create scoring opportunities.”
Sunday’s energy-sapping conditions were hardly conducive to the pressing game and its requirement that players, when not in possession of the ball, produce a high-energy pressurising of opponents to win it back. Hicks acknowledged this and said that Strikers’ coaching staff had factored it into their appraisal of their teams’ performances.
“The number one thing we look for when we are watching those games is the intent,” Hicks said.
“You take into consideration things like the heat and the playing surface conditions. They are all aspects that in a perfect world may have been different, but that doesn’t mean that we change our game or we stop being what we are because of those problems that we face.
“We still have to show that intent and want to do it. The intent was good. It doesn’t mean that we were able to sustain pressing for seventy minutes but that doesn’t matter at this stage.”
Hicks said that, with the first round out of the way, the Strikers’ coaching staff would immediately analyse performances and move on.
“The beauty of football is this – there’s always room for improvement but particularly when we are talking about development,” Hicks said.
“We’ve got a great coach base that will be analysing what’s been going on and they’ll be working hard on taking the players forward. But for game one, when you look across all teams, the intent and the ability to want to demonstrate their skills was very pleasing.
“The scores were all over the place yesterday but the actual performances were very good – individual performances and team performances”.