Western Pride footballer Mitchell Bird works hard against a Logan player during last weekend's pre-season trial. Pride teams will play Holland Park at Brassall on Saturday afternoon.
Western Pride footballer Mitchell Bird works hard against a Logan player during last weekend's pre-season trial. Pride teams will play Holland Park at Brassall on Saturday afternoon. Inga Williams

Pride's 2017 focus crucial with NPL changes coming

FRESH from an overseas holiday, Western Pride head coach Graham Harvey is confident the club's senior, youth and under-18 men's squads are taking shape for the 2017 season.

However, with a promotion-relegation system touted for the 2018 National Premier Leagues state competition, Harvey knows next year's development will be crucial.

"I'm really, really happy with the 18s and 20's'', Harvey said having cast a thorough eye over Pride's squads since returning from the United States.

Harvey will look after the senior and under-18 squads next year.

This year's under-18 coach Krishneel Maharaj, a former Fiji youth international footballer, will guide Pride's youth (under-20) combination in 2017.

Harvey praised Pride technical director Gabor Ganczer and club technical skills coach Jamie Dixon for their ongoing assistance.

"Gabor did a fantastic job with the 16s last year so they've come up and made the 18's squad,'' Harvey said.

"They are young, they are learning about senior football now but in terms of keeping them all together, it all helps.

"I'm really happy with Gabor and Jamie did.

"With the 20's, a lot of those guys have come up from Krishneel's under-18s so right across the senior program, there's some really good stability, which last year we probably didn't have.

"That's a bit of a testament to where the club's at with the development side of it. Players are sticking around. They can see that there's progression now. We're not losing as many players.''

Harvey said having a large under-18 squad was particularly important with the school commitments teenage players have.

However, that growth in numbers will be vital in coming months.

Football Queensland is looking to revamp the state competition in 2018 with a two-tier promotion and relegation format.

Teams promoted and relegated will be determined by a points system covering where clubs finish in the under 20, under 18 and under 16 competitions.

Before having a fortnight break for Christmas, Pride's senior, youth and under-18 players will play another friendly against Holland Park at Ipswich Grammar's sporting fields at Brassall.

Saturday afternoon's matches at 12.30pm, 2.30pm and 4.30pm (senior game) follow recent trials against Gold Coast and Logan.

"It's early days so we're still just having a look at a few boys in on trial,'' he said.

"We're just really trying to work out our squad.

"The boys that have already re-signed, just making sure that they get some game time before Christmas.''

Harvey is pleased to have retained the core of last year's NPL side after key off-season losses.

Joe Duckworth and Hayden Mchenery have joined Brisbane Roar Youth, with goalkeeper Bon Scott switching to Brisbane City.

Valuable players returning include Jesse Rigby, Corey Lucas, Nielen Brown, Mitch Bird, Gabriel Hawash, Geoff Macintyre, Jordan Lambi Adam Edean and Will McFarlane.

The head coach said his player recruiting priorities were another goalkeeper to help rising talents Dylan Williams and Justin Weier, as well as another centre forward after losing the team's leading goalscorer Duckworth.

Harvey said Western Pride would sit out next year's Silver Boot pre-season competition to focus on the club's own schedule. That includes matches against Brisbane Premier League clubs and Ipswich-based side like the Ipswich City Bulls and Western Spirit.

"We're keen to play some of the local sides to foster those relationships,'' he said.

"We're trying to get the balance between travelling away for fixtures and staying at home so you just give the boys different exposures.''

The Pride squad will return on January 3 before playing the series of pre-season games.

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