HAVING had a taste of elite football, Tom Biss longs for more.
A former squad member of the Wellington Phoenix Reserves, the 19-year-old midfielder relished the odd training session last season with the franchise's premier side competing in the A-League.
"I was really happy training like a professional two times a day [with the reserves] and then having the odd training session with the first team once a week while I was living in Papanui," Biss says of the reserves team that former Scottish international Jonathan Gould coached.
"I don't want to stop here. I want to push on to bigger things," the former St John's College pupil says.
"I want to look at things over the ditch in Australia to see where it takes me.
"I reckon New Zealand Football has a really good league here and it shows a lot of quality but I want to push on," says the teenager who has designs on securing a soccer scholarship with an American university, too.
"I have done my university entrance exams, level one, two and three," he says, eyeing a degree in sports science or sports administration.
Biss is in his first full season with the Kinetic Electrical Hawke's Bay United team which hosts Waikato United in Park Island, Napier, tomorrow in the ASB Premiership soccer match.
The Chris Greatholder-coached Bay are buoyant on the heels of timely wins to sit in fifth place to give themselves a chance at their maiden play-off in the premiership.
After a shock 2-0 loss to Waikato, who champion a passing game, in the inaugural White Ribbon match, the Bay men bounced back to beat the Declan Edge-coached side 4-2 at Porritt Stadium, Hamilton.
"They like keeping the ball in Barcelona style, so I'm really loving it," Biss says of the Edge drive that advocates backing home-grown talent to develop football on a passing philosophy.
The Stortford Lodge Auto Sales employee reckons he's developing under Greatholder, whose contract the franchise has extended into next summer after the rookie coach steered the team out of the doldrums when Matt Chandler left for Australia three rounds into the premiership.
"Gouldy's been helping me quite a lot, too," he says of the former Bay United coach who is now goalkeeping coach with Perth Glory.
Biss also wants to make the New Zealand under-20 squad to be announced soon.
The Cru Bar Maycenvale United player will head for the Under-20 World Cup in Turkey in 2013 if he makes the cut for the Chris Milicich-coached side. Asked to describe himself, Biss says: "Hard-working, passionate and exciting."
They are all the necessary ingredients a young man requires on the path to success.
"I'm really enjoying playing alongside Stevie [Stephen Hindmarch] and Adam Cowan," he says, adding rubbing shoulders with the Englishman and Cowan in the engine room has taught him to take a professional approach not just to playing but to training as well.
His parents, Jo and Matt Biss, give him oodles of support to chase his dreams.
Biss also has a trusty pair of scoring boots, finding the net four times this summer, including a hat-trick of goals against YoungHeart Manawatu in Palmerston North.
Waikato coach Edge yesterday vowed his team would play the same passing brand of soccer it has always played.
"There are two different styles of playing and the only team who play a similar style to us are Auckland City," Edge said.
The former New Zealand international striker also emphasised the significance of recruiting players from their catchment only.
"The only other team in the world that has the same philosophy as us are Atletico Bilbao," Edge said, while watching the Spanish La Liga beat Manchester United 3-2 on TV yesterday in the Europa League encounter.
He reiterated the Bay franchise neither played the Barcelona passing style nor did they recruit players from their area only.
"They have played in the premiership for the past seven or eight years and still haven't made the play-offs.
"We're different to Hawke's Bay's style and philosophy. We're not bringing in outsiders and Hawke's Bay don't do that.
"We pass the ball at all times and Hawke's Bay don't do that either."
Edge said Waikato's constitution demanded everyone in the squad got minutes on the park.
While the visitors take the field with determination to win, it isn't definitive in any sense.
"If we don't win, it's not the be-all and end-all. It's in no way the end of the world."