North Force selection worth staying up for

Estelle Harrison is the latest of a long list of young Northland women to force her way on to the national football scene, but she has had to battle sleep deprivation to do it.

The 20-year-old Kerikeri assistant baker has had to juggle her early starts with the demands of late evening training sessions in Auckland to be able to play for the Northern representative side in this year's ASB National Women's League.

After trialling for the team in 2009 and 2010, she was thrilled to finally make the side this season and to her surprise was named in the starting line-up for the defending champions' opening match against Waikato Bay of Plenty.

She was so nervous she felt ill before the match, but played a good game and was mentioned in the speeches after the match. This added to her confidence as she struggled to get used to the left back position that she hadn't played since she was a teenager. Her talent as a dead ball specialist has also helped her establish herself in the team and she has played in every game.

Soccer is a labour of love for the Pakaraka footballer. She has been passionate about the game since she began playing for the Paihia Football Club as a 4-year-old.

Harrison works as an assistant baker at Reeds Veggie Express Bakery in Kerikeri and her time commitment to football is huge.

She travels up to 22 hours a week to play for Northern and the cost is high, not only in petrol, but also having to deal with the constant lack of sleep.

Thankfully, she has a supportive family which insists on driving her to Auckland to train so that she can try to get some sleep on the way down and back, especially after getting up at 3am to complete a 10- to 12-hour bakery shift.

Fortunately, she is used to the travel after representative squad training in Auckland twice a week as a youngster, and for the past six years she has travelled to Tikipunga and Auckland to train and play for the North Force women's team.

Estelle is one of five children and comes from a sports-mad family. Although her parents now have no children playing junior football, they still co-ordinate the Paihia Football Club.

Harrison has been joined by Whangarei international Katie Rood in the Northern side. Another former North Force player now attending Westlake Girls' College, Dallas Olsen, has also been a regular, while Kamo's Ellie Andrews has also been brought in to train with the side.

On Sunday, Northern clinched top spot in the Northern Conference Group with a game to spare with an emphatic 6-0 win over Waikato Bay of Plenty, ensuring a home semi-final against either Central or Capital on December 9.

- Northland Age

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