New Zealand Women’s futsal to the fore

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Women’s futsal has been in the spotlight over recent weeks with sides representing New Zealand taking part in a pair of international tournaments for the first time and such milestones are likely to keep coming with further opportunities in the pipeline.

First, a squad made up of the country’s finest tertiary student players made history at the FISU World University Futsal Championships in Brazil earlier this month, claiming New Zealand’s first-ever point at a global tournament with a 2-2 draw against Kazakhstan before even giving hosts and reigning champions Brazil a scare by taking a shock 2-0 lead in another match.

The record-writing then continued with the inaugural Trans-Tasman Women’s Champions League, which took place in conjunction with the annual NZF National Youth Futsal Championships during a busy weekend at the Central Energy Trust Arena in Palmerston North.

Women’s futsal has been in the spotlight over recent weeks with sides representing New Zealand taking part in a pair of international tournaments for the first time and such milestones are likely to keep coming with further opportunities in the pipeline.

First, a squad made up of the country’s finest tertiary student players made history at the FISU World University Futsal Championships in Brazil earlier this month, claiming New Zealand’s first-ever point at a global tournament with a 2-2 draw against Kazakhstan before even giving hosts and reigning champions Brazil a scare by taking a shock 2-0 lead in another match.

The record-writing then continued with the inaugural Trans-Tasman Women’s Champions League, which took place in conjunction with the annual NZF National Youth Futsal Championships during a busy weekend at the Central Energy Trust Arena in Palmerston North.

New Zealand Women’s futsal to the fore

“The Trans-Tasman Champions League was yet another milestone in women’s futsal development as we look to create as many opportunities as possible in the female pathway,” NZF Futsal Development Manager Dave Payne says.

“Last year, community female futsal participation grew by 37 percent and it’s now the turn of the talent-based products to take the stand. This year alone, we have already had the National Women’s League, the National University Women’s Championships, the National Secondary School Championships and the National Youth Championships, as well as New Zealand playing five internationals at the World University Championships and Manawatu taking out the Trans-Tasman title in a clean sweep,” he adds.

“It’s a long list of opportunities and we are excited to be progressing women’s futsal.”

An example of the experiences that can be gained on the player development pathway now in place is that set by Hannah Robert, who has recently returned from representing her country at the World University Championships and has also taken part in the National Women’s League, National University Women’s Championships and the Trans-Tasman Champions League in the space of just a few months.

The Trans-Tasman event gave Robert and the rest of the Central-Manawatu squad, who won the national league in February, the chance to take on their counterparts from Australia, Football Federation Victoria Futsal. And the hosts did not disappoint the local crowd, lifting the trophy after winning all three matches.

New Zealand Women’s futsal to the fore

Central-Manawatu – who were jointly coached by Matt Wallace and Central Football Futsal Development Manager Josh Margetts – outscored the visitors 17-8 on aggregate over the course of the series, winning the three matches 7-2, 4-3 and 6-3 respectively.

Despite eventually triumphing by a comfortable margin, the decisive trophy-winning moment for Manawatu arrived in hugely dramatic circumstances in the dying stages of the second game. Knowing a win would see them take out the series, it looked as if they would have to wait until the final match for that chance with the scores locked at 3-3.

But captain Nicole Robertson had other ideas, rifling home a winner with just three seconds left on the clock to earn the title and spark wild scenes of celebration at Central Energy Trust Arena.

Goalkeeper Mikaela Boxall was a key figure, pulling off a number of outstanding saves to keep Victoria at bay, and joined her teammates in being delighted with the outcome.

“It’s an amazing feeling and I’m so proud of everyone – I couldn’t have had a better set of girls in front of me,” she says. “We gelled really well and our team cohesiveness showed on the court.”

Another player important to the cause was the sharp-shooting TeeJay Lyne-Lewis, who scored a double in the second match and a hat-trick in the third.

Along with Boxall and the majority of the Manawatu squad, Lyne-Lewis plays outdoor football for Palmerston North Marist in the Central League and felt that familiarity with each other’s play made a big difference.

“Only a few of the players come from somewhere else and that’s been awesome, it’s really helpful when it comes to the chemistry of the team,” she says. “It’s been great to be able to play against a team from another country and was quite an honour actually.”

Similar opportunities will not be hard to come by for the country’s finest female futsal players in future years. The Trans-Tasman Champions League will become an annual event while New Zealand will continue to be represented at the World University Championships, which are held once every two years.

“Futsal has also been accepted into the Youth Olympic Games for the 2018 edition in Argentina and we are working towards one day being able to establish a Futsal Ferns women’s national team, so there is a lot to look forward to,” Payne says.

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