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Maggie Jenkins proud to lead from the front

Defending champions New Zealand are hot favourites to secure their seventh consecutive U-19 Women’s Oceania title and book their ticket to next year’s FIFA U-20 World Cup hosted by Nigeria when they face New Caledonia in the tournament’s title decider at Rarotonga’s CIFA Academy.

Coached by Gemma Lewis, the current crop of this New Zealand age group is oozing class, with nine players of the squad involved in New Zealand’s history making third place finish at last year’s FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Uruguay.

One of those nine bronze medal winners is captain Maggie Jenkins, who couldn’t be more delighted with leading her side to another regional final.

“It’s an awesome feeling, I just love these girls so much, and it just gives me a lot of pride to be able to lead them out on to the field and put out these performances we’ve be playing in this tournament,” she said.

It’s been a truly dominant campaign by the New Zealanders to date, sweeping into the final on the back of four remarkable performances which produced 59 unanswered goals.

Jenkins, with seven contributions to that tally so far, is adamant no individual can claim credit for their impressive results.

“There are lots of leaders on the field, it’s not just me, we are just all helping each other out and that’s what leads to our really good performances in this tournament,” the New Zealand skipper insisted.

Away from the pitch the Kiwis are a close-knit group and their bond is another key factor in their success according to Jenkins.

“Yeah, we have little movie nights, team activities and stuff like that, we’ve got little competitions going on and that’s really impacted on bringing the team together and you know helped us bond, and got us all know each other better over this journey over here in Rarotonga,” she explained.

Despite their all-conquering displays in their previous four matches, Jenkins insists the job is not done yet and her side must remain focused against Les Cagous.

“This is the goal of our tour, this is what we came out to do so it’s really important that we put in a really strong performance against New Caledonia.

“We watched them and we know they’re a really strong side so we’re really looking forward to the game,” she said.

With the Oceania crown as well as a trip to next year’s World Cup on offer, the stakes couldn’t be any higher for the two teams, and Jenkins admits the New Zealand players are buzzing with excitement about the prospects ahead.

“It would be amazing to qualify for the World Cup and if we do get there the squad will probably change as we’d have a whole year to prepare, but we are all looking forward to what Gemma Lewis is going to do with this team and yes hopefully we qualify,” added the New Zealand captain.

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