Northern NSW relocating to NPL

Northern NSW Football is readying to move to the National Premier League next year to provide a clearer pathway for talented players in the area.

The Hunter football region is in the midst of preparing itself for a transition into the National Premier League (NPL) next year. With under a fortnight to go until applications close, Northern NSW Football boss David Eland is confident that all clubs currently competing in their State League will choose to enter the recently formed second-tier of football in Australia but there are no plans to cater for sides outside this jurisdiction.

Northern NSW Football is the third largest federation in the country and services areas from Lake Macquarie all the way up to Tweed Heads. Eland sees the projected move to the NPL as a positive step forward and hopes it will provide a clear pathway for local kids to progress their football careers.

“The board have adopted a series of recommendations from an internal review and we-re in the middle of the application process which closes on August 9.

“We-re very confident that all clubs competing in the State League will choose to apply and we-ll have to wait and see if the First Division clubs apply to be licensed.”

The Men-s Premier Division in the Newcastle area is comprised of two tiers, being the aforementioned State League and First Division, which are exclusively contested by teams in the Hunter region. There are currently ten teams competing in the State League and eight in the First Division.

When pressed on what the move would mean for clubs outside this area, Eland said there were no immediate plans to cater for sides outside of the Hunter belt at the top level.

“Unfortunately the tyranny of distance is too much of a hurdle at this point,” he said.

Instead Northern NSW Football will put a strategic plan in place, with four regional zones of high performance programs aimed at developing youth players identified as having the ability to play in the NPL.

“Our hope is that in partnership with the Newcastle Jets we-ll have the necessary programs in place for players to make a seamless transition from the Immerging Jets structure to the NPL.

“It is projected the licensing process will lift the standards of our clubs both on and off the field.”

This process has been a year in the making with Eland saying their board had been in constant consultation with the FFA in order to meet the Elite Clubs Accreditation criteria given the region's unique characteristics.

Eland anticipated the move would lead to more players from the region playing a higher level of football and recognise the role State League clubs are playing in developing and showcasing local talent.

While not prepared to take credit for the fact Newcastle Jets were the highest represented club for the Socceroos at the recent East Asian Cup he said it would provide fantastic inspiration for young players in the area.

One player who is a product of the current structures in place is Andrew Hoole, who represented Australia at the U/20 World Cup in Turkey and was set to be included in Holger Osieck-s recent squad for the tournament in the Korea Republic until he was injured in training.

Having played his club football for Broadmeadow Magic, Hoole was picked up by the Newcastle Jets youth system before graduating to the first team where he made eight appearances in last season-s Hyundai A-League.

Eland hoped that by making the move to the NPL, Northern NSW Football would have many more players making the transition to the A-League in the near future.