Six footballers from the Matamata-based Swifts Player Development Programme (DPDP) spent part of their summer school holidays living like young professional footballers.

Jack Wilson, Theo Barlow, Ryley Bruce, Quinn Sinclair, Liam Costello-McVeigh and Leo Williams were selected to join 160 talented footballers from the Ricki Herbert Football Academy’s eleven centres, based throughout the North Island, at their annual National Elite Football Camp, which was held at St Peter’s School in Cambridge from January 21 to 24. Camp attendees ranged in age from 9 to 15 years.

The camp programme involved development and game-based training, fitness assessments and recovery sessions using the first class facilities at St Peter’s. Players from this camp will be selected for academy age group teams that tour overseas in 2020, with destinations including China, Thailand and Australia.

Theo Barlow, one of the six SPDP members who attended the camp, thoroughly enjoyed his experience. “It was lots of fun but hard work too,” he said. “I enjoyed playing with footballers from other parts of New Zealand and making some new friends. I didn’t really like the beep test, though!”

The Ricki Herbert Football Academy (RHFA), headed by ex-All Whites and Wellington Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert, runs the SPDP in conjunction with Matamata Swifts AFC. Kale Herbert, current head coach of ISPS Handa Premiership team Hamilton Wanderers, and Ricki’s son, heads the SPDP in Matamata. The ISPS Handa Premiership is the top men’s football competition in New Zealand.

Ricki and Kale are pleased with the progress of their Matamata programme, which opened in February 2019. “It’s great to have a centre based in the Eastern Waikato as it gives children from the area access to quality developmental coaching,” said Ricki. “It was great to see six players make it to our 2020 National Elite Camp – hopefully we’ll have many more from the region selected in future seasons.”

The term 1, 2020 SPDP begins on February 17. Matamata-Piako, Hauraki and South Waikato youngsters can sign up now. Players don’t need to play for Matamata Swifts to sign up for the programme. It is open to footballers and non-footballers alike as it provides excellent physical literacy training for children of all ability levels. Social players and non-footballers will improve their skills, while those who take their football more seriously have the opportunity to be selected for the RHFA’s regional and national programmes, along with their overseas tours.

More information on the term 1, 2020 SPDP can be found HERE.