A foot injury meant the reigning Oceania women’s footballer of the year – White scored hat tricks at both the U-17 and U-20 Women’s World Cup in 2008 – was missing from the Junior Football Ferns squad when the tournament was originally scheduled in October.
A postponement to the tournament due to the Tsunami tragedy that affected participating nations American Samoa and Tonga has given White time to recuperate and make a 20-strong New Zealand squad for the five day tournament – also featuring the Cook Islands – which will determine Oceania’s representative at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Germany later this year.
White’s injury also ruled her out of the National Women’s League season and, most frustrating of all, denied her an eighth senior cap in a November friendly against Japan, but that disappointment now serves as added incentive for the teenager.
“It’s really exciting to be back in camp and playing again after that time off,” White said, “my last international was almost a year ago.”
“I think if I play well here for the U-20s and can do my bit to help us qualify for Germany then it’ll be a good lead-in for the Football Ferns series against Australia in February if I’m selected, and a chance to push for a starting spot in the Cyprus Cup in March.”
As one of eight players in the current U-20 squad to have tasted senior international football, and one of 16 who have played in at least one U-17 or U-20 World Cup already, White is typical of the experience the Junior Football Ferns can draw on during the tournament.
However at just 16 years old, White is reluctant to adopt the tag of ‘senior player’, despite the games already under her belt.
“We had some very experienced players in the 2007 squad in Chile, but I guess it’s a bit different now that we’re the ones, perhaps, that others in the squad look up to.”
Junior Football Ferns coach Tony Readings said White is a key leader in the group despite being one of its youngest members.
“Rosie leads a lot by example,” Readings said.
“Her commitment and attitude in training are always spot on. She just wants to play football and play it well, and you can see that on the training pitch where she sets a high standard.”
“We’ve got a mix now with experienced players and some fresh ones, and we’re finding the experienced ones are helping the less experienced players out.
The new faces in the camp include three who have forced their way into the squad after initially missing out in October.
Wellington’s Teri Amber Carlson, Whangarei’s Hannah Wilkinson and Dunedin’s Elise Mamanu-Gray have all impressed Readings and his staff enough to break through and now have the chance to cement their places.
“Because we the postponement, we had time to cast our net a bit wider and take a second look at some players who maybe just missed out last time or have done well since at the Secondary Schools tournament or in the National Women’s League. We brought 10 into the camp on trial and those three shone the brightest and showed us they could add something to the group.”
New Zealand opens the tournament on Thursday against American Samoa at North Harbour Stadium’s artificial pitch. Kickoff is at 1.30pm followed by Tonga taking on the Cook Islands at 4pm.
The Junior Ferns then face Cook Islands on Saturday and Tonga in a potential decider on Monday.
Story courtesy NZF Media
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