THE Limestone Coast soccer fraternity was well represented in this year’s Ultimate Fiji Soccer Cup, as 14 future stars of the sport made the overseas trip to represent regional South Australia on the international stage.
A total of five boys and nine girls from the South East flew to Fiji for the carnival, after they were chosen through a Football Federation South Australia selection process earlier in the year.
The youngsters teamed up with other regional players from around the state and battled challenging conditions and competition over the four-day cup, as they faced teams from Fiji and New South Wales, while the boys youth (Under 15) also competed against a New Zealand side for the first time.
Although the teams were unable to bring home the silverware at the end of the tournament, the trip saw two players receive individual awards for their efforts.
At just 13 years of age, South East Women’s Football Association player Kate Seaton competed in the girls youth FFSA side, where in some cases she was up against players as old as 17.
However, her talent and determination did not go unrecognised and she was named in the Allstars Team of the Tournament.
Fellow SEWFA player Nadia Metzger captained the girls senior (Under 17) team and was presented with an inaugural award from the FFSA, in memory of the late Mikayla Eastwood, who tragically passed away along with boyfriend Hayden Perkins in a car crash in the Adelaide Hills last month.
“Nadia received an award we created this year in honour of an 18-year-old who passed away the week before we flew out,” FFSA regional development officer Matt Mays said.
“She came to Fiji with us a few years ago, so this award was created in her honour.
“It reflects the personality and hard work Mikayla put in on and off the pitch.”
These two honours were an impressive achievement for Limestone Coast players, as they battled challenging conditions and opposition throughout the carnival.
“It was good and it was a challenge,” Mays said.
“It was very hot, with sticky and humid conditions.”
The 2018 Fiji Cup saw the FFSA take the most regional-based teams it ever has to the cup, with a youth (Under 15) and senior (Under 17) side in both the boy’s and girl’s competitions.
Mays said it was a proud accomplishment to have such strong representation.
“Two years ago we took three teams and last year we took two, but this year we took four squads, which was very encouraging,” he said.
“It was a challenging week, no doubt about that, but we knew it was going to be and we rose to the challenge.”
Mays was impressed by the way both the boy’s and girl’s squads conducted themselves on and off the pitch and was pleased with the performance of all four teams across the tournament.
“It was very tough (competition),” he said.
“It was an extra challenge because some of the teams we played against had players two, three or even four years older than our age groups.”
The boys senior side – which featured Limestone Coast Football Association’s Harry Wilson and Tyler Michielan – finished the carnival in fourth place out of four, with a draw and three losses, one in the playoff against Fiji West 2.
In the largest pool, the boys youth finished fifth in a group of six teams, but Mays said the result did not reflect the way they played.
That team saw LCFA’s Aaryan Ghimire, Connor Prior and Alex Hill represent the South East.
SEWFA’s Alexis Lunnay, Letitia Izzo, Metzger, Kali Langley and Lauren Frost played in the girls senior side and managed to finish third place out of four, while the girls youth saw Chelsea Frost, plus Ellie and Kate Seaton represent the region, also finishing third from four.
Despite the results, the experience gained from the trip is something players will look back on fondly.
“It allowed the players to express themselves in a different, tougher environment,” Mays said.
“It brought a sense of togetherness as well.
“If things were not quite going our way or it was too hot, it encouraged the squads to work harder as a team.
“I find taking regional players away, it is often more in their personality to have that grit and hard-working attitude than perhaps players from metropolitan areas.
“There are lots of positives to take away for sure.”