Record-breaking Rolston

If Emma Rolston was on the field at the 2015 OFC U-20 Women’s Championship in Tonga you could safely assume it wouldn’t be long until she was putting a ball in the back of the net.
Along the way she replaced current Liverpool Ladies striker Rosie White as Oceania’s most prolific scorer at women’s U-20 level and broke the Oceania women’s record for the most goals ever in a single game, netting 11 times in just 45 minutes of football as New Zealand beat New Caledonia 26-0.
It ensured a landslide victory for Rolston in the race for the Golden Boot, which she won for the second consecutive year.
“It feels really good to be able to hold a record like that,” Rolston says.
“But it comes after a lot of support from the team obviously, without them feeding the ball in I wouldn’t have it, so I am very grateful to them.
“It’s just nice to be out there scoring goals.”
Her New Zealand side were completely dominant in winning their fifth OFC U-20 Women’s Championship and qualifying for the 2016 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in the process.
As a squad they scored the most goals ever by a team at the competition, with Rolston so often the recipient of fantastic build-up play.
No player assisted more of Rolston’s goals than captain Jasmine Pereira who was in formidable form herself, scoring 16 times and deservingly being named as the competition’s best player.
“Emma is just an all-round good player and I love being in the team with her,” says Pereira, who has played alongside Rolston right through from U-17 level.
“She is quite a strong player and has an eye for the goal, she is always there running into the box and she has that real aggression in her game.
“She has been pretty humble about breaking the record, but I think she is pretty stoked.”
The goal-scoring feat is all the more impressive when you consider Rolston hardly played a game in the 12 months prior to the tournament, as she struggled with a lower back injury which flared up at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in August last year.
Coach Leon Birnie sees in Rolston some key common attributes possessed by previous New Zealand U-20 star strikers such as White and Kirsty Yallop, who both won the Golden Boot at previous OFC U-20 Women’s Championships.
“They are just what I would call natural goal scorers. They have the ability to see the game unfolding, read the cues and get into the right positions,” he says.
“Technically they are very proficient finishers, and because of those attributes when you combine them together, that’s what allows them to put the ball in the back of the net.
“Emma is a very hard worker, she is someone that will go away and do the work away from the football field.
“I think in the first game in Tonga she had quite a few opportunities, she took some but there were others she felt she could have been more clinical around.
“But as the tournament went on I think she became a lot more clinical, and there was some good assisting by others too.
“Her standards and her execution keep getting higher, and I think we are starting to see the Emma Rolston we have seen at previous tournaments.
“Her ability to create half a yard, to give herself that little space between her and the defender, I think that is a very good attribute that she has.
“Once she is in those positions she is technically a very good finisher and she executes a high percentage of those chances.”
For Rolston attention now turns to preparing for the World Cup in Papua New Guinea, while she also has an eye on breaking into the Football Ferns before the end of the year.
“From here I want to make the Ferns and eventually go pro,” Rolston says.
“We had one-on-one meetings with the coaches while we were in Tonga and one of the targets they set me was to progress into the Ferns.
“I am not sure of the path I want to take yet, but for the time being I just need to keep improving my game – my positioning, movement and fitness – and from there everything else will flow.”

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