When a young Jade North first visited Rochedale Rovers’ Underwood Park complex on the southern outskirts of Brisbane, he knew instinctively he wanted a career in football.
“They were the biggest and best club in Brisbane at the time, everything seemed so professional,” North said.
“I was only 12 but I knew then I wanted to be a professional footballer.”
North vividly remembers signing on under the guidance of Rochedale’s then first team coach Kieran Cooper, who first rose to fame as a free-scoring striker for Brisbane City in the Philips League.
“Coops (Cooper) brought me to the club. He’s a really good guy who has done everything at Rochedale from coaching to president to working in the clubhouse, North said.
“People like him helped to make the club special, they were so professional in everything they did but they were also very friendly. It was a real family-orientated environment.”
North, a central defender from northern NSW, played for several seasons in a successful Rochedale Rovers youth side coached by Wayne Eaton, who has returned to Rochedale this year as the club’s under-16s coach.
“We won a few trophies and had a good local rivalry with Logan City who were just down the road,” North said.
“I also remember some pretty good games against Coalstars. The Ipswich boys were always tough.”
The professional habits and expert training North got at Rochedale helped launch a career that has seen him capped 41 times for the Socceroos and play more than 144 games in the Hyundai A-League for the Roar, Newcastle and Wellington. He also played for clubs in Japan and Norway.
North, who was selected in the Hyundai A-League All Stars in 2013-14, also has the rare distinction of winning championships with four Hyundai A-League or NSL clubs – Brisbane Roar (2013-14); Newcastle Jets (2007-08); Perth Glory (NSL 2003-04) and Sydney Olympic (NSL 2001-02).
He says the continued growth of football at all levels across Australia has made it a much more viable career choice for talented young players than it was when he was a junior footballer.
“If you play football you can go to a World Cup, an Asian Cup and even the Olympics. Few other codes or sports can offer that,’’ North said.
“And the Hyundai A-League is getting better and better. You can now make a decent living as a professional footballer in Australia and in 10 to 15 years’ time it will be even better.
“There’s a lot for young footballers these days to aim for.”
Players, coaches and referees can register to “Play Football” by logging onto Australia's biggest online sports registration portal, which can be found at http://www.myfootballclub.com.au/
Get down to the following Centres this weekend to meet your Hyundai A-League heroes and get involved in some fun football activities.
* Newcastle Jets - Westfield Kotara – Saturday 7th February 12.30–2.30pm
* Melbourne City - Westfield Plenty Valley – Sunday 8th February 11am-2pm
* Perth Glory - Westfield Whitford City – Sunday 8th February 11am-2pm
* Western Sydney Wanderers - Westfield Penrith - Thursday February 12th 4.30pm-5.30pm
* Melbourne Victory - Westfield Knox - Friday February 27th 4pm-5pm
Check back regularly as more clubs announce their appearances.
Check westfield.com.au for more detailed information.