THREE Gippsland juniors will represent the region as part of the Country Victoria under 14 soccer side to contest the National Youth Championships in Coffs Harbour beginning on Sunday.
Trafalgar’s Jacob Vitale, Olympians’ Henri Scott and Fortuna goalkeeper Lachie Galea have made the starting 11.
Henri and Jacob are returning members of last year’s under 13 side but it will be Lachie’s first taste of the state system.
“(I’m looking forward to) the higher standard of it and the higher quality of play; I’ll obviously see a much better standard down here,” Lachie said.
The national championships will be the boys’ last chance to pull on a Victorian Country jersey, as they merge with metro in representative sides from under 15 onward.
Striker Jacob said his skill set had benefited greatly from his involvement in the country side.
“My control and my passing; everything has just gotten a little bit better,” he said.
Thirteen year-old Henri, an attacking midfielder, said playing in the upper echelons was a great measuring stick for his own ability.
“You’re playing with better players and you get to see what level everyone else is at,” he said.
Every player in each of the four squads took part in the Victorian Champions League, Football Federation Victoria’s talented junior summer competition.
Heading into its fifth season, the VCL aims to have the best players receive the best coaching and play against the best opponents while adhering to the national coaching curriculum.
Jason Dustin was among the coaches imparting his wisdom on the squad members and said Gippsland juniors could learn by the example of this year’s representatives.
“It’s just about developing the players we’ve got in Gippsland and hopefully a couple more can follow Jacob, Henri and Lachie to Victorian representation,” Dustin said.
“If not they go back to their clubs and become better players at their clubs.”
Dustin said the intensity of play and exposure to top footballers was integral in the development of the team members.
“They’re playing against better players more often and they’re training with better players,” he said.
“At their club they might have four or five (strong players), here they have 16 and their abilities rise because of that.
“It’s just about expressing themselves and showing what they can do.”
On the final day of the National Youth Championships an all-star team will be named for each age group, with that team facing off against the overall winners.