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Southern teams have very different expectations this week.
Both teams would typically fly under the radar heading into the national under-18 tournament.But this year the tournament is in Dunedin and the men’s team blew its cover with two good wins against Canterbury during the pre-season.
The women’s team, though, has the modest goal of improving and staying competitive in games for as long as possible.
It does boast a trio of talented players in Ellie Duncan, Jaime Preston and Jessica Faulks, who will be hoping to do better than just compete.
Duncan is a skilful, speedy striker who is making her third appearance at the tournament.
Coach Shona Harvey hopes Duncan’s pace will help make a difference up front. The team has traditionally struggled to put the ball in the net but Duncan is on the national radar, having made New Zealand under-18 training squads, and is an athlete of note as well.
Faulks will captain the side and is the strongest plank in the defensive set-up. A national representative touch player, she is very fit and her communication at the back will be vital.
Preston is the link between the two. The midfielder is a wonderful distributor and a heady player with good vision.
"Anybody is beatable on the day but traditionally the girls have been in the bottom half, so we are just giving it our best and going in with a positive attitude," Harvey said.
Southern men’s coach Hitaua Arahanga-Doyle was more ambitious.
"Our goal is to win the tournament," he said.
"We played Canterbury about six weeks ago and had two promising wins and they are the defending champs.
"So our first goal is to win our pool and we’ll play it from there."
Midfielder Finn Ward will captain the side. The New Zealand under-18 representative is a crafty playmaker and will set the tempo on attack.
He will be looking to link up with quality finisher Zach Mason, who is a potent and crisp striker of the ball and who will run all day.
Centre half Charlie Holt will scramble hard on defence and attack and is another strong athlete who will not run out of puff.
The tournament begins tomorrow and will conclude on Saturday with the finals. The format has the eight teams split into two groups of four.
The top two sides of each group will progress to the playoffs, while the other sides will compete in the bottom-four playoffs.
Southern men open their campaign against Capital tomorrow at 4pm. Canterbury and Midlands are also in its pool.
The Southern women are in pool A with Auckland, Central and Capital. Its opening a game is against Central tomorrow at 3pm.
National under-18 tournament
Dunedin, July 8-14
Southern women: Samantha Fennessy, Jessica Faulks, Jordon Miller, Piper Muirhead, Ellie Duncan, Grace Milne, Nikita Peterson-Soloman, Jaime Preston, Holly Haig, Ella Wilson, Taylor Duffy, Liv Preston, Tessa Buschl, Suzie Morrow, Olivia Hall, Hannah George, Angelique Peyroux, Olivia Allan.
Southern men: Christopher MacDonald, Ronan McNeill, James Thompson, Ocean Allemann, Billy Sheard, Jean-Luc Peyroux, Angus Cotton, Finn Ward, Charlie Holt, Chester Rosie, Zeke Buschl, James Nicolson, Nick Parata, Andrew Popham, Zach Mason, Hugh Jenkins, Louis Holt, Brayden Thomas.