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Premier experience for ‘Rewa youngsters

Swapping the red and blue of Fencibles United for the blue and yellow of Manurewa has paid off for a pair of youngsters.

Botany Downs Secondary College (BDSC) student Atiq Koike is a member of Nathan Christie’s Manurewa side in the Lotto NRFL Premier Division.

“I decided to move to Manurewa [from Fencibles] because of the opportunity to trial for the reserve/first team who are in the Premier Division this season.

“I thought if I made it into these teams it would be a great experience at this age,” the 18-year old fullback said.

“When I found out I made the first team I was super stoked and so hyped to start the first game of the season.”

Christie is a firm believer in if you are good enough, you are old enough and has handed four school boys game time in the top flight.

“A lot of players in my day played in the Lotto NRFL or National League while in high school,” Christie said.

“I was Player of the Year in my Division One team at the age of 15 so I have always believed that if you are good enough, you are old enough.

“As a full back, Atiq has had more opportunities to get game time given the teams positional needs; he is smart, fit, fast, technically excellent and works tirelessly up and down the sideline.

“Each week I can talk him through situations and he is able to take all of these things on board and implement them immediately.”

Fellow BDSC student Troy Christophers – a member of the reserve squad – made his first team debut in round seven against the then unbeaten Onehunga Sports.

“It was a big challenge coming up against Onehunga Sports,” Christophers admitted.

“It was great to be able to get a feel of the intensity and speed which is involved in the league.

“I was quite nervous for the first couple of touches with the ball, but I think I slowly got into it as the game went on; it really helped having a good group of guys out on the field with me making it more enjoyable, as well as the fact the reserves play the same tactics and formation so I knew what the coach waned of me.”

Despite their tender age and lack of experience, Christie has no qualms in making some big calls to involve the youngsters.

“Thanks to some injuries and some poor performances in the first team, it was an easy decision for me to give these boys a chance in the first team given their reserve team performances.

“The big call came once we had a full complement of players back; I decided to move some fringe guys on to keep the youngsters involved.

“I don’t hesitate to play younger players if I think they can do the job, and despite their reservations, they are repaying my faith with performances I knew they were capable of.

“Getting the experience so early bodes well for their future in the game wherever they choose to play,” Christie added.

For Koike and Christophers that is at Manurewa, with the pair putting their full focus into their club environments.

“Unfortunately, I have not been able to represent BDSC this year,” Koike said.

“It is a shame to not be able to play football for school in my final year, I would have loved to play another year and help the school out, however, I know that playing at this level for club will benefit me.”

Manurewa host Forrest Hill Milford this Saturday at Jellicoe Park, 3pm.

Photo: Atiq Koike in action for BDSC.
Photo courtesy of JLS Photographs