NPL to benefit game in the west

The state-based National Premier Leagues competitions could turn out to be of more benefit to Western Australian players than those in other Member Federations.

The state-based National Premier Leagues competitions could turn out to be of more benefit to Western Australian players than those in other Member Federations. Out here in the west, we are proud of our parochialism and the sense of isolation that has contributed to the character of the place and the people. But regardless of our pride in our state, there is no doubt that where we are situated can be a significant hindrance on the career prospects of our best players.

Before anyone jumps to the wrong conclusion, I am not talking about our development system or the standard of our top-tier competition, which are often underestimated by our friends on the east coast of the country. But there is little doubt that Perth-s isolation also means that our best players are less likely to be noticed by scouts, coaches and officials from the majority of the A-League clubs, which are located east of the Nullarbor.

The development of the NPL, a genuinely national play-off system, means that for however long a WA club can stay in the knock-out “champion-of-champions” format, the longer the players remain in the eyes of a whole new audience, some of whom will be on the look-out for new talent. Very much apart from providing clubs with new standards to meet and guidelines around everything from coaching to constitutions, the NPL, in its end-of-season play-off system, will expose some of WA-s best players to a new level of competition, new opponents and, very probably, new admirers.

Just last weekend, Bayswater City, the club I coached to a grand final win last season and will again steer in this year-s NPL-WA, had the opportunity to get a feel for what to expect if the players are good enough to win the state competition again this season. While this season-s WA winners will be included in the NPL play-offs, as grand final winners in 2013 we were invited to travel to Adelaide to take on the 2013 NPL-SA winners Campbelltown City in an Interstate Club Challenge. The experience was fantastic for the players - and some of our very passionate supporters - and I-m hoping it will have also instilled a new sense of hunger in the squad to repeat their achievements of last year. It was a great opportunity to test ourselves against the best in South Australia and I-m sure it has given us all a boost heading into WA-s inaugural NPL season.

We certainly travelled to Adelaide with the NPL on our minds and tried to do as much as we could to behave and operate like a professional club. From a personal point of view, and in the early years of my coaching education, there were some logistical challenges to ensure the players were prepared for the task. It was also an educational tool for me as I had to pit my wits against a different coach and style without having seen the opposition play. As a group, we were forced to focus solely on our own roles and organisation and I was pleased that we performed so well.

We were eventually beaten in a penalty shoot-out after neither side could find the net in a scoreless draw after 90 minutes. Even though we played for quite some time with 10 men, I thought we dominated the game and created plenty of chances. That-s not to take away anything from City coach Joe Mullen and his team, who played their part in a good, fair game between two state champions.

The introduction in the NPL of the Player Points System, which has been put into place to encourage the development of young, home-grown players, prompted me to give a few of our best young players an opportunity at a level of football they have not experienced before. I have no doubt that all of our players will be even more motivated going into the NPL season as a result of this experience, which was played out in front of some important football people, including John Kosmina. The kudos of being NPL-WA champion is motivation enough but now they have had a taste of what it might be like in the play-off series. Thousands of young players around the country should be thinking along the same lines.

The NPL is not the Hyundai A-League but it represents a great opportunity for players - especially those from in WA - to get rare recognition for their talents. It will give late-bloomers, raw talent and rough diamonds an opportunity to shine in the hope of being spotted by an A-League club.