Thursday, July 16, 2009


Artificially Enhanced

A couple of days ago, the Australian squad for the Asian U-16 qualifying series in Canberra in October was announced. One thing that immediately catches the eye in the list is that it features no fewer than seven players from the Sutherland Sharks club.

There may be all sorts of factors involved in this apparent anomaly (especially the very healthy player base that the club has to choose from), but can their over-representation be put down, in part, to the artificial pitch they have been using for the last few years?

Seymour Shaw has been a regular destination of mine during this winter's state league peregrinations, and I've been regularly impressed by the crisp football that their brand of artificial turf seems to engender. With true bounce, sufficient give and flexibility for tackles, and just enough friction to simulate a normal grass field in terms of passes along the carpet (if you'll pardon the pun), it has been an outstandingly successful experiment, in my view.

In a segment from the World Game program in 2007, Craig Foster made the bold prediction that youth development at the club would improve dramatically with the introduction of the pitch. It seemed a big call at the time, but it may have been a good one. It should be added, as a caveat, that it is only in the U-14 division of this year's youth league that Sutherland have really dominated; it will be a few years before the effect on the younger players can be properly gauged.

The history of artificial pitches has been one of trial and error, and plenty of false starts. Last year I had the chance to talk to a member of the New Zealand World Cup side of 1982 about their astonishing 5-0 away win over Saudi Arabia, on an artificial pitch, on the way to qualification. He mentioned that despite the result, the Kiwis had found the surface very hard to handle, and that there were blisters all round at the final whistle. The pitch that the Olyroos had to play on in North Korea in their final qualifier for Beijing looked little better.

I was initially sceptical about the Seymour Shaw innovation, but my doubts have been completely allayed after watching plenty of games there over the last couple of years. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that it's the way of the future...especially for clubs that can't afford the level of upkeep (and drainage) that is customary for clubs at the aristocratic end of the scale.

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hmmmmm, so our lack of technique isn`t just attributable to the nefarious influence of the british ...

so give kids a decent pitch to play on, and they`ll play some decent footy, eh?

also wondering whether the a-league being a summer comp will lead to a slower possession based approach over time.

...hmmmmm, so our lack of technique isn`t just attributable to the nefarious influence of the british...

Shhh! Don't say such things in public. ;-)

I'm completely convinced its got nothing to do with the pitch, but with the high level of probabilty the selector(s) only turned up to his beloved Marconi and Sutherland youth games.

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