College Sport: Goalie to test skill in global contest

By Campbell Burnes

Massey football fanatic has high hopes for career on the field.
Young soccer player Connor Frith from Massey High School, Auckland. Photo / Dean Purcell
Young soccer player Connor Frith from Massey High School, Auckland. Photo / Dean Purcell

Connor Frith seems like a quiet, humble 14-year-old, but his competitive streak comes out when he pulls on his goalkeeper's uniform.

Then he gets vocal, barking instructions at defenders.

The Year 10 Massey High School student loves football and will be taking his talents to Germany next month in the most exciting phase of his burgeoning career. Frith will be in a New Zealand team chosen by former All Whites star Wynton Rufer to compete in the Under-15 One Nation Cup in Germany.

The tournament, featuring eight teams including Turkey, Russia, Israel and Japan, will be hosted by Rufer's old club Werder Bremen, with whom he won a European Cup Winners' Cup in 1992.

The trip represents a huge chance for Frith to impress on a world stage, in front of scouts. The tournament runs from May 30 to June 4, meaning he will miss only two games of school and club football.

Frith is not a member of Rufer's Wynrs Academy, so how did the opportunity come about?

"I saw one of our coaches from our school sports-specific at a Northern Football Federation session and he asked me if I was born in 2001," Frith said. "He asked if I wanted to go to one of Wynton Rufer's trainings. He was there and gave me some tips one-on-ones [goalkeeping drills]. It just went from there."

Asked how vocal he is on the pitch, Frith deadpans: "I can be loud."

He goes on: "I probably need to talk a bit more and give more information at times. I'm pretty good at diving, but I need to work on my one-on-one situations, whether to stay or go."

That will come with more experience. He has already crammed in plenty of that since getting into football aged just 3. He's played for representative teams through the Northern federation and all his club football for Waitakere City. He plays 15th grade for the club, generally on Sundays, which frees up Saturdays to play for Massey High. This season he's in the wider First XI squad and is hopeful of nailing down one of the two goalkeeper spots.

Yesterday, Massey played Papatoetoe in leg one of a promotion-relegation battle to go up to Senior A2, the third tier of Auckland schools senior football. The second leg is next Tuesday at Massey.

Frith is also in the Massey sports academy, which puts an emphasis on fitness and sports-specific training.

"I've got a lot of practices going on at the moment, but it's all good."

That means training most afternoons or evenings. Friday is about the only night he can put his feet up. His mother Nicky often plays taxi driver as he shuttles between school, home, Fred Taylor Park, QBE Stadium and Rufer's Greenlane training base.

Massey have been supportive and the school's new principal, former Tall Blacks captain Glen Denham, appreciates the commitment required. Frith has a plan for his studies while he is in Germany.

"If there are any assessments, the teachers are going to give them to me early, and I'll try to get them done so I don't miss out on much."

Frith is in football for the long haul. He hopes to crack the A-League and get a scholarship to the US. The One Nation Cup might just pave the way.

- NZ Herald

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