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Eakins: Playing for country never gets old

It will be no different on Friday when New Zealand meets Australia in the first of three matches for the Trans Tasman Cup at ASB Stadium in Kohimarama.
“There’s nothing like putting on the New Zealand gear and playing with the silver fern on your chest. It’s a really special feeling,” he says.
The AFF-Futsal player – who doubles as Auckland Football’s Futsal Development Officer – first joined the national team in 2008 and is now leading a 16-man squad that includes seven uncapped players, a prospect which excites him.
“It’s exciting for the team going forward,” he says.
“We have some excellent young players that can certainly change a game and that’s what is great about this team now because we haven’t always had that in the past. We’ve even got a few game breakers among them.
“Everyone already knows about Dylan Manickum. He is the New Zealand Futsal Player of the Year and he’s been scoring goals for fun so he is going to cause problems in any team he plays against regardless of what level they’re at.”
Eakins is convinced the future of futsal in New Zealand is bright after seeing some of the talent on display at three training camps held around the country this year, as well as in the ASB Futsal National League since the inaugural 2010-11 season.
“There were training camps in Auckland, Timaru and Wellington and attendance was around the 100 mark and that was just selected players, so that’s a bigger player base than what we have had in the past” he says.
“There are a few young players that missed out and probably could have easily made the team and been just as good. It lets us, the players that are still in the team, know that there is a young guy that’s trying to get your spot and it keeps you honest.
“The great thing about these guys is that they’re very good technically. It’s about learning the game and not losing the football habits but knowing what the difference is between the two games.
“They’re all young and willing to learn. They’re like sponges and every day they’re getting better and better.”
Eakins believes the growth of futsal can be narrowed down to the last two years, when it came under New Zealand Football, and credits the National League with providing developing youth with competitive games against the best players in the country.
“We’ve had people like Dave Payne, New Zealand Football’s Futsal Development Manager, really pushing the game and I’ve heard it’s grown from 700 registered players to 5000 and that’s just at the last count. It will be pushing around 7000 or even more at the moment.”
Eakins has come up against Australia only once before in a 2008 international, from which the Futsal Whites were “pretty much sent packing from Aussie” but is relishing the chance to prove the team has come a long way since.
“It should be a good game, it’s definitely going to be competitive. Don’t get me wrong, Aussie are a good team, they’ve been established a lot longer and they’re going to the 2012 FIFA Futsal World Cup,” he says.
“They’ve qualified through Asia, which is no easy means, so they are going to be tough but we’re definitely going to give them a surprise over the weekend I think. The boys are really pumped, we’ve got the right attitude and I think we’re going to ruffle a few feathers.”
He says having former Futsalroos coach Scott Gilligan on New Zealand’s side is already making a difference.
“Scott is the best coach I’ve ever had and his knowledge of the game is second to none. It’s great to have his expertise within the squad and straight away we’re noticing that he has so much to offer and he probably hasn’t even shown us all of his cards yet.”

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