Northern NSW Football takes over Newcastle SAP program


Northern NSW Football has taken over the running of Newcastle Football’s SAP coaching program after a disagreement about how to develop junior talent.

The decision means Newcastle Football, which has won the past three boys state championships in under-11s and under-12s, will not send teams to next year’s titles.

NNSWF will select players from its Newcastle SAP program to compete at the championships, which also include the Emerging Jets and zone teams from Macquarie, Hunter Valley and four other districts.

Northern will meet with parents on Tuesday night at Souths Leagues Club to outline how it will run the Newcastle program, which will comprise boys from under-10s to under-12s and girls from under-9s to under-12s.

NNSWF boss David Eland said Northern had appointed a technical director and several coaches and secured a venue for its Newcastle Skill Acquisition Phase program, in which identified players train and play exclusively with a SAP team.

Newcastle Football is reviving its NET boys program, in which club teams and coaches train once a week with the zone’s coaches under technical director Richard Hartley. Newcastle ran the program in 2014 but reverted to SAP in the past two years. Its girls program will mirror SAP in that identified players will train and play only with their zone team.   

Eland said he had recommended to his board that NNSWF run SAP in Newcastle as Newcastle Football wanted to pursue a different program.

“Newcastle Football was not prepared to commit to a licensed SAP from 2017,” he said. “Unfortunately, our philosophies in this regard were not aligned.

“Newcastle Football were very keen to implement a program that was very, very broad, and that just wasn’t aligned to our high-performance principles. If Newcastle Football don’t want to do it, there’s not a lot we can do.

“What Newcastle Football is conducting is a community program, whereas the skill acquisition program we will be running is aligned to our talented player pathway. They’re two completely different programs.”

Newcastle Football chief Russell Henry said NET would support the player numbers required by NPL and WPL clubs.  

“We believe that the base should be wider. We should be offering the Skills Acquisition Phase of training program to as many players as we can,” Henry said.

“We believe the SAP program is narrowly focused and doesn’t deliver the numbers of players that the system requires, so we’re offering it to the wider base so we can support those other tiers above us.”

Both Eland and Henry said players and parents were free to choose between the programs on offer.

“There is a choice,” Henry said. “The decision to go with the SAP has the pathway that David is publicising, and we accept that. We’re not questioning any of that.

“We have said to the boys that they can take the SAP pathway or go to one of our community clubs that are involved in the NET program and come back to us that way.”   

Eland said Newcastle Football would not have teams at the state titles as “they are not part of our talented player pathway any more”.

“The state championships are for member zones that are committed to the skill acquisition program,” he said. 

“We’ve redefined the principal purpose of the state championships. They are principally there as a talent identification opportunity . . . to identify players with the potential to be part of our Emerging Jets program.

“Unfortunately, Newcastle Football will not be part of the state championships. We will be selecting kids from the Newcastle SAP program to be part of the state championships.”

Eland acknowledged that parents facing a choice between the two programs would be “feeling a bit confused”.

“But I just don’t think we are competing here. Northern NSW Football’s Newcastle SAP is a high-performance program. The NET program is a club-based community program.”   

Eland said Northern had asked NPL clubs whether they wanted to take over the SAP program from the member zones during the next licence period, but they were unanimously against the idea.

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