International Stage set for NRFL Coaches

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New Zealand Football appointed two NRFL Coaches a fortnight ago into the international age group set up, with Onehunga Sports Head Coach, Hiroshi Miyazawa and Melville United Co-Coach Sam Wilkinson ready to make their mark in the upcoming qualifying tournaments for both the OFC U19 Youth Championships and next year’s OFC U17 Youth Championships.

Wilkinson joins the U17 National team coaching space, alongside Jose Figueira and Paul Temple. While in the U20s Space, Miyazawa, will join Des Buckingham as the assistant coach for the upcoming OFC U19 Youth Championships.

Wilkinson, a former Melville United player himself was appointed co-coach at the end of the 2016 Lotto NRFL season, alongside former NZU-20 Skipper, and Melville player, Michael Mayne. Together, the pair have rebuilt the brand of Melville United and have created a force to be reckoned with inside the Lotto NRFL Men’s Division One.

Melville coach Sam Wilkinson. . Photo: Shane Wenzlick /

After previously holding coaching roles in the youth space at both West Bromwich Albion (2010-2012) and Birmingham City (2012-2015), Wilkinson returned to New Zealand seeking to be a head-coach and brought with him a UEFA A Licence, which he gained in 2014.

“It’s a great honour, I am a proud kiwi and to get the opportunity to help my country qualify for a World Cup is a really proud moment for me” Wilkinson said.

“It’s a really exciting challenge for me, it’s a new opportunity and it’s a chance to go and work with the best young players that we’ve got in the country.”

On the books of the U20s, Hiroshi Miyazawa held a professional footballing career, prior to his coaching career in New Zealand.

Primarily a Centre Back in his professional days, Miyazawa made the move to New Zealand to link up with the former Australia National Pro League side, the Football Kingz.

Spending two years with the side, Miyazawa retired from professional football in 2003. This is when Miyazawa began a career in coaching, developing youth at WYNRS (Wynton Rufer Football Academy) as a full-time coach.

Onehunga’s Head Coach Hiroshi Miyazawa talks tactics at half time. Photo: Ben Campbell /

Spending four years at WYNRS, Miyazawa was promoted to Director of WYNRS Elite Academy, producing some of the finest talents existing today, including All Whites, Chris Wood and Marco Rojas.

During his reign as the Director of WYNRS Elite Academy, Miyazawa took Central United (2007) and Onehunga Sports (2011 and 2013) to the Manchester united Premier Cup World Finals, after beating a handful of both Australian teams and New Zealand teams throughout the qualification tournament.

The past four years have seen Miyazawa take up the role as Technical Director of the Wellington Phoenix Soccer School (WPSS), which works directly in correlation with the Wellington Phoenix.

The WPSS has produced some of New Zealand’s finest footballers, including the likes of Michael Fitzgerald, Sarpreet Singh, Michael Den Heijer and South African age group international, Liam Jordan.

Moving onto 2017, a massive year was in store for Miyazawa, who guided Onehunga Sports to winning both the Lotto NRFL Men’s Premier Division as well as taking Onehunga Sports all the way through to the final of the ISPS Handa Chatham Cup and being crowned champions.

Creating an attractive brand of football at Onehunga Sports, it was no doubt the man from Japan would attract the attention of the governing footballing body of New Zealand and effectively take the next step in his coaching career.

“It is a very exciting opportunity for me personally, but at the same, Des [Buckingham] and I are representing the country, so we need to do a good job to qualify for the FIFA U20 World Cup” Miyazawa said.

“We’ve got a job to do now and our obvious end goal is to get New Zealand to next year’s World Cup, so we will be working hard to ensure we qualify.”

However, both coaches admit, the NRFL has provided a good learning curve for them to learn and develop their own coaching style to able to compete in a challenging environment, which has led to their appointments as Assistant coaches for both the U17s and U20s Men’s teams.

Thriving for challenge, Miyazawa launches at every opportunity to develop his coaching and says the NRFL was a prime place to learn and develop his coaching style.

“In the NRFL, there are really good teams that play with different footballing styles and playing against them provides a challenge, which only develops you as a coach” Miyazawa said.

“Until last year, we were chasing titles and eventually we won a few, but this year, we are in a position to defend and retain, so obviously, it’s a different challenge and I find it is a difficult change to adapt to, but it’s something that will only develop my coaching.

For Wilkinson, he saw the coaching he did prior to the NRFL as a development centre, working with youth until he joined Melville United. Wilkinson says the NRFL was a huge learning curve for him and has stretched and developed him as a coach.

“The coaching I did prior to the NRFL was all in the development phase, I was working with younger players, where there was a less of an emphasis on results” Wilkinson said.

“There’s a lot of competitive sides in the NRFL, many of whom play different styles and it was a big learning curve for me as a coach, the league has stretched and developed me as a coach and it’s a huge asset to my learning coaching in the Northern League.”

The NZ U-20 side are set to kick off their first qualifying match against 4pm NZT