An old set of goalposts gifted to the family by a local club could end up playing a significant role in the rise of two local brothers to Australian representative status.
When Dylan Wenzel-Halls was recently signed by Hyundai A-League club Brisbane Roar from National Premier Leagues (NPL) Queensland club Western Pride, it brought back memories of the youngster’s development from local junior to potential national competition star.
It was with the old set of posts discarded by an Ipswich club that Dylan honed his razor-sharp skills at scoring goals – and standing in his way was now 16-year-old brother Declan, who is goalkeeper for Western Pride’s Under 16s.
Wenzel-Halls’ rise to the Hyundai A-League demonstrates the success of the Queensland player pathway, which includes the NPL Queensland and the NPL Queensland Women’s competitions and Football Queensland Premier League (FQPL), which was introduced this year.
It is what the expansion is all about – to unearth and promote promising footballers.
More and more young players, male and female, are now pushing themselves into the spotlight and to the attention of Hyundai A-League and Westfield W-League scouts and, indeed, any number of overseas clubs.
Joey Champness, a former NPL Queensland young gun with Brisbane Roar Youth and Moreton Bay United, enjoyed a breakout 2017/18 season with Hyundai A-League grand finalists Newcastle Jets.
Lions FC’s Jesse Daley recently signed an overseas contract with Major League Soccer side Seattle Sounders’ reserves team, while current and former Westfield W-League players can be spotted plying their trade in the NPLW competition.
The addition of the FQPL as another stepping stone option for youngsters can only be beneficial for the identification of future stars, according to new FQ State Technical Director Gabor Ganczer.
Unearthing more such talent is the aim for Football Queensland.
“I believe this move has been massive,” Hungarian-born Ganczer said of the competition expansions.
“I believe it is a great initiative to create a bigger pool through FQPL.
“Coach education is a massive priority of mine, to have quality workshops and to lift the bar in standards.
“Most definitely the NPL junior system is a lot more structured and there’s a lot more emphasis on the playing style and quality of coaching than before.
“So definitely it has worked for Wenzel-Halls and now hopefully for other players.”
One of Ganczer’s aims is a greater emphasis on female football.
In Queensland, the boys have a full-time academy at the Brisbane Roar and additional players get extra support when they earn selection for FQ talent support programs and state teams.
He hopes to see something similar through extended FQ talent support programs for female footballers to unearth future stars.
With Wenzel-Halls about close to embark on his first Hyundai A-League pre-season, Ganczer recalled the countless hours the youngster spent kicking a football where roses should have been growing.
“His Mum got rid of the flowers in the garden of the front yard and put in those goalposts, I believe from Ipswich Knights,” Ganczer said.
“There are a lot of backyard cricket pitches in Australia but in this case it was front-yard football. The family sacrificed having a nice front yard for the boys to have more kicks.
“Dylan would have had thousands of kicks at goal – and guess who was goalkeeper most of the time? It was Declan.
“Dylan’s goal-scoring ability and his accuracy with his shots probably all comes down to those sessions in his front yard.
“It was that, as well as an unquestionable commitment, that has taken Dylan to this stage.
“He has great character and this is what is needed – besides good coaching and family support.”
Ganczer’s credentials to head the talent identification for Football Queensland are unquestionable.
He has lived in Queensland for a decade and started off as coach at Coolum FC on the Sunshine Coast where he coached junior representative sides. Ganczer also served as an advance scout for both the Roar and the Socceroos.
He moved to Brisbane and had stints as technical director at Olympic FC and Western Pride – where a young Dylan Wenzell-Halls first came to his attention.
Words: Terry Wilson
Image: Chris Simpson