Words: Michael Flynn | Image: Angela Mussell
Gold Coast City Youth coach Brett Budwee is convinced of the value of the club’s talented player pathway after his side’s season officially drew to a close on the weekend.
Budwee reflected on the 2017 campaign after the final game of the season was cancelled by Football Queensland, with a 0-0 draw awarded between City and Moreton Bay United.
With no official Premiership title on the line due to an unequal playing schedule, City won or drew over two-thirds of their matches this year.
However, in his first season as a youth coach at City, Budwee said the biggest positive was the role played by the Under 20’s side in preparing players for the rigours of senior football.
“The youth team trained with the senior team throughout the season – and those are some of the best players in Queensland. That is very valuable for these boys,” Budwee explained.
“We also competed against the first-teams from Brisbane City and Peninsula Power in the Macron Cup and that was an important experience too.”
“But the fact that our first team’s season was such a success was really a credit to the youth boys in some ways because we helped them prepare in the training drills and of course we learned a lot from that ourselves.”
Several youth players earned time with the first ream in 2017 – including goalkeeper Joshua Langdon, midfielders Curtis Stollery, Thomas Miller and Jason Campbell, and defender Oskar Dillon.
Previously a coach in the Gold Coast Premier League with Gold Coast Knights, Budwee said he has no doubt that playing in the PlayStation 4 National Premier Leagues is the best option for young players if they want to pursue high-level football.
“I coached in the local Premier League for nine or ten years and the NPL is clearly the next level up,” he enthused.
“The quality of football that comes with training three times a week and the professionalism of the sessions, is just a whole lot higher.”
“So, from my perspective, it is very important that we identify local players for the youth team that can play first team football and help those players then earn those opportunities.”
“Having a strong first-team means it takes hard work to make the step up but that makes for better footballers and that’s what it is all about.”
Reflecting on the results of 2017, Budwee said the team’s sixth-placed finish in the table was misleading as several teams higher on the table played more games against the lower finishing teams.
“We beat all the top teams this year. The league table is not a true indication of the strength of our team because of the way the schedule is,” he explained.
“A lot of the teams above us play midweek and they can drop players from their first teams to play those games. We also didn’t get as many games against the lower teams, so it’s just a bit uneven if you only look at the points.”
“I’m not sure how it will all work next year but hopefully it will become a balanced season with the introduction of promotion and relegation. It will certainly be better for everyone if that is the case.”
Budwee said moving into a youth coaching role after several years coaching senior football had provided some challenges that he had not previously dealt with.
“A lot of our established youth players at the start of the season did a full pre-season then chose to go play local football. So, the squad I finished with was only half the squad I started with,” he said.
“That was disappointing because those players were fringe first-team players, who, because the first team was so strong, took the easy option and went to the local league.”
“But in saying that it gave opportunities to promising Under 18’s to come into the squad – seven of them made their youth debuts this year - and then three or four of them were in my starting team by the end of the season.”
He added, “There has definitely been good harmony between the three teams – the Under 18’s, the youth and the first-team – and that’s something you don’t see at a lot of clubs. There is never any resistance in working together to give players opportunities.”
He stressed that for players with aspirations that playing in the best competition available is the clearest path to realising their ambition and maximising their potential - including progressing into Hyundai A-League youth teams.
“We have a few players who are being looked at by the Roar scouts and every player should be encouraged by that.”
“There is no doubt that the NPL is the pathway and if you step off the pathway by going back to the local league then you are likely going to be out of the shop window. That’s just the way it is,” he concluded.
Gold Coast City FC Under 20's Season Summary - PlayStation 4 NPL Queensland 2017
Position - 6th
Played - 22 (W10, D5, L5)
Goal Difference - +27 (F63, A36)
Points - 35
Clean sheets - 7
Biggest win - 17 -0 v Sunshine Coast FC (June 17th @ Duncan Mckenna Field)
Longest winning streak - 4 games
Longest unbeaten run - 5 games
Top 10 Goalscorers -
9 -Jacob Boutoubia
7 - Fraser Eller
6 - Ethan Grimley, Thomas Miller
3 - Benjamin Williams, Jason Campbell
2 - Cai Tipaldo, Cody Anderson, Finlay Johnston, Harry Liebke, Joseph Knox, Max Fitzgerald, Oskar Dillon
Top 10 Appearances -
20 - Harry Liebke
19 - Ben Avery, Thomas Miller
18 - Benjamin Williams, Finlay Johnston
17 - Joshua Mussell
16 - Garion Vogel
15 - Thane Beal
14 - Forrest Tourneur, Harrison Lister, Maxi-Jae Rodriguez, Oskar Dillon