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Byron Shire
June 20, 2024

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Lismore Thistles juniors with Chris Layland. Photo supplied.

Lismore Thistles Soccer Club has launched the Thistles Acceleration Program, in the process becoming the city’s only player development academy. 

With the former Liverpool Academy – now called Northern Rivers Football Academy – departing Lismore after the floods, it left Lismore without an academy: a position Lismore Thistles will now take on. 

To run the Thistles Acceleration Program (TAP), the club have secured the services of the region’s most successful and experienced youth coach: Northern NSW Coach of the Year, Chris Layland. 

As a coach, Layland has won the Football Australia U13 National Championships, coached at Brisbane Roar academy, run youth clinics for Sydney FC, guided Metro West to multiple podium finishes at the Football NSW State Titles, and won three consecutive Summer Youth League titles with Byron Bay FC. 

TAP is a selective program that will see players aged 9-12 trial to be selected in the elite squads. 

There will be a total of four TAP squads: an U12 Girls squad, an U12 Boys squad, and two mixed squads (for ages 9-11). These squads will receive specialist coaching from Layland with the view to developing these players into future Premier League and representative players. 

Mentoring club’s coaches

Working with these four squads won’t be the limit of Layland’s involvement either: as technical director, he will be mentoring all the club’s coaches and will be ensuring all youth teams are coached correctly and play well. 

In 2019, Layland set-up Byron Bay’s successful High Performance Program which saw the club win nine youth titles in two years while developing many players who would go on to play for the club’s Premier League team. 

Layland has also been instrumental in helping multiple Far North Coast players earn trials and contracts at professional and semi-professional clubs in Sydney such Western Sydney Wanderers and Sydney Olympic. 

A pathway for Lismore players

While the ultimate goal is to create a pathway for Lismore players to become future Premier League and potentially professional players, Layland says TAP is about more than simply looking to the future. 

‘With no player academy in Lismore since the floods, Lismore Thistles saw the need for our city to have a local option when it comes to developing youth players: rather than having to travel to the coast multiple times per week. 

‘Families no longer have to travel for hours every week just to play for an academy, they can get all the benefits of a youth development program right here in Lismore.’ 

The launch of TAP also showcases the city’s ability to recover from the floods. 

‘As Lismore rebuilds, it’s important to give our local players a pathway into future representative, Premier League, and professional players so that they can dream and aspire to be the best they can be. 

‘Like much of our region, Lismore Thistles were devastated in the flood and the launch of TAP is a major milestone in both the rebuilding of the club and the rebuilding of Lismore as a city.’ 

All junior and youth players are invited to register to play at Lismore Thistles here. 

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