Age and wisdom have always been the dictum of how a season is likely to unfold in sport but, oddly enough, they fall out with each other sooner or later.

That cycle of experience starts becoming a little wobbly when astuteness maintains its intensity but the years start gnawing away at the body's propensity to keep up with the play.

Consequently injecting young blood becomes an inevitability to sustain that threshold of performance.

In the Lotto Central League landscape, Ethan Ladd is the epitome of that face of transition on the soccer field.


The Conroy Removals Napier City Rovers player doesn't just signal a changing of guards but also enters the fray with a promise of energy, excitement and a commitment to innovation.

Ladd, who made his Central League debut last Sunday in the 4-3 loss to Wairarapa United at Park Island, Napier, is only 16 as he prepares for another match against Wellington United in a 2pm kick off at the Bluewater Stadium tomorrow.

As coach Bill Robertson points out the defender, who played the entire game as left back, impressed him in the way he went about against pedigree players in Wairarapa alongside the experienced Danny Wilson.

"For a 16-year-old still in school, to perform the way he did was a credit to him and bodes well for the future," says Robertson of the Hastings Boys' High School pupil who grabbed his opportunity with the absences of experienced captain Fergus Neil, Matt Bruin and James Hoyle who aren't available tomorrow either.

Perhaps what gives a good snapshot of Ladd's attitude is his willingness to step into a position when right back is where he's more comfortable.

He hadn't even make a few minutes off the bench in the lead up to the game but then the Year 12 pupil drew on his experience in his maiden appearance with the Hawke's Bay United youth campaign last summer and the time spent training with the Stirling Sports
premiership senior squad towards the end of the season.

"I was just trying to relax when a I got the ball with a first few touches and trying to keep it," says Ladd, who got more into the game as it progressed who did find it a challenge to put up the shutters against blokes such as Paul Ifill, Seuele Soromon and Sam Mason-Smith.

The half-hour downpour from the 30th minute had ruined the game, says the former HBHS First XI team member who competed in the Computer Care HB Pacific Premiership last season.

It negated the pass-and-move game the Blues had employed effectively and, Robertson hastens to add, when they should have scored a few more goals but instead it deteriorated into a long-ball affair that Ifill had admitted Wairarapa had quickly reverted to with success.

Robertson echoed those sentiments, believing the game became a "lottery" with the onset of rain.

"It's disappointing because I thought we were in full control of the game," says the coach, who is still plying his trade with Team Wellington so is ineligible to turn out for the Blues until the O-League campaign is over.

A product off the assembly line of contemporary defenders adept at creating a tempo from the back, Ladd says HBHS coach Grant Hastings had impressed from the early years the need to push the ball around although he played in the First XI midfield.

He is content with defending now but isn't sure what the immediate future holds for him on the field.

"I think I did a good job so, hopefully, he's confident enough to play me when someone is injured."

Ladd is aware Wellington United are a predominantly youthful Wellington Phoenix feeder team who spend all their time training akin to an academy.

Basically they will be an unknown quantity.

The former Parkvale School and Hastings Intermediate pupil has been kicking a ball around since he was six, hooking up with other mates who were into it.

Ladd flirted with rugby a few years on but found the mobility of soccer and thinking quicker on the feet more enjoyable.

His parents, Holly and Matthew Ladd, were supportive and relish watching him play.

He is still mulling over what he'll do post-school but doesn't consider himself a scholar and is happy to find a job before deciding the extent of his commitment to football.

Robertson says, while it's exciting to develop talent it's never a given they will stay after gleaning skills while playing alongside senior teammates.

He points out teenage midfielder Ross Willox, for instance, will leave for an American university after school.

"That's the nature of Hawke's Bay, unfortunately, where we either lose them to overseas or to Wellington or Auckland for university opportunities but all we can do is keep developing these young players and hope they'll stick around to play for Napier City Rovers.


NAPIER CITY ROVERS: 1 Joshua Hill (GK), 2 Blake Koolen, 3 Bradley Perks, 4 Jonny Cox, 7 Stu Wilson, 8 Vinnie Mackirdy, 9 Angus Kilkolly, 10 Fahad Rwakarambwe, 11 Jorge Akers, 12 Ethan Ladd, 14 Josh Stevenson (c), 16 Danny Wilson, 18 Ross Willox, 20 Charlie Yexley, 21 Kyle Baxter (RGK).
Coach: Bill Robertson.
Assistant coaches: Stu James, Perry Cotton and Marty Akers.

WELLINGTON UNITED: 1 Keegan Smith (GK), 2 Oliver Valentine, 3 Jake Williams, 4 Liberato Cacace, 5 Sam Phillip, 6 Ben Mata, 7 Tinashe Marowa, 8 Ollie Whyte, 9 Willem Ebbinge, 10 Sarpreet Singh, 11 Sam Sutton, 12 Luke Johnson, 13 Noah Tipene, 14 Tuyi Byamana, 15 Liam Wood, 16 Tommi-Joe McIndoe, 17 Luke Tongue, 18 Liam Moore, 19 Thomas Raimbault, 20 Jack Henry Sinclair, 21 Ruairi Cahill-Fluery, 22 Nick Lane, 23 Owen Smith, 24 Ben Waine, Zac Dean (RGK).
Coach: Andy Hedge.
Assistant coaches: Paul Temple, Weijie Lim, Grayson Harwood, Justin Raffan.