Teens share path to youth World Cup

TRIO: Emma Clarke, Lily Bray and Rebecca Lake,

Three young footballers can now call themselves teammates at club, provincial and international level.

Emma Clarke, 17, Lily Bray, 16, and Rebecca Lake, 18, are used to lining up together for both Coastal Spirit in the Mainland Women’s Premier League and the Canterbury United Pride in the National Women’s League.

The trio will now represent New Zealand together at next month’s under-19 Oceania Women’s Championship in Auckland after being named in coach Gareth Turnbull’s 20-strong squad. The championship winner will qualify for next year’s under-20 World Cup.

Lake was a regular in New Zealand’s central defence at last year’s under-17 World Cup in Jordan. She along with Bray and Clarke will now push their case for a spot in the under-20 World Cup in France.

“I’ve never experienced anything like the atmosphere in Jordan. It’s definitely made me hungry to push my case for another World Cup,” said Lake.

Midfielder Bray has previously represented New Zealand in a tournament in China and at just 16 will be eligible for the next two under-20 World Cups.

It’s a new experience for right-back Clarke. The qualifying tournament will be her first time representing New Zealand.

“I couldn’t believe it to be honest when I got the news,” said Clarke. Turnbull also has a strong Coastal and Canterbury connection. He coached the Coastal women’s premier side from 2009 to 2012, before moving on to coach the Pride, leading them to national titles in 2013 and 2014.

Turnbull was no mug on the field himself and is regarded as one of Coastal’s greatest players.

He previously held the Mainland Premier League’s all-time leading goal-scorer record with 94 goals, a mark that was only surpassed last month by Cashmere Technical’s Michael White.

Before the girls head to Auckland, they have a must win game for their club. Coastal take on Cashmere in the third round of the national knock-out cup on June 24. The two teams are also currently level on points at the top of the WPL standings.

“We beat them recently so we’re confident. The knockout is a competition we really want to progress far in,” said Clarke.