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February 2, 2023

Local youth football gets elite program

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Father and son Christian and Chris Layland (left) coached their U/13 NSW team to victory in the National Youth Championships in Coffs Harbour last month.

Byron Bay Football Club has become the first regional club in New South Wales to establish a high-performance program to be launched in 2019.

The new program is the first of its kind outside the big cities and is modelled on the A-League Academy programs run by clubs such as Western Sydney Wanderers and Sydney FC.

In a far north coast first, youth coaches at Byron Bay will sign contracts worth up to $2,000 as Byron Bay FC looks to attract the region’s best to work with players aged 13 to 16 years old.

Byron Bay will run eight junior teams in the program with boys and girls catered for.

These teams will provide a development pathway not only to Byron’s Summer Youth League and senior teams, but also to NPL and A-League clubs in the cities.

‘We want to help identify and develop talented players in the far north coast and help them on their way to becoming professional footballers,’ said Chris Layland, Byron Bay FC youth technical director.

‘Players from the country are born with the same talent and potential as city kids but lack the opportunity and high-performance coaching that youth need to make it on the big stage.’

Layland, who is also assistant coach of the NSW U/13 team this year, says that the seeds of the new program were sown late last year when two of their players moved into elite football in Sydney.

‘We organised for Sam Shepherd to trial with Western Sydney Wanderers and for Hari Scott to trial and play pre-season with Sydney Olympic. Sam ended up signing for the Wanderers and scored goals in their victorious U/20s team all season.

‘If we can begin high-level development and identification at an early age these kinds of success stories will be a regular thing – not just one-offs,’ he said.

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