He has that hint of unmistakable Aussie twang when he speaks but if you cut Hayden McHenery's veins you'll find it oozes many things Kiwi.

The Auckland-born soccer defender left this country's shores for Brisbane with his parents, Christine and Danny McHenery, when he was 6 years old.

However, he has been visiting family in the big smoke as well as the NZ under-20 pre-camp early this year. He missed out on the final cut of 20 squad members.

The 20-year-old rightback, who plays for the Western Pride in the Queensland State League (a tier below the Hyundai A-League), is making his ISPS Handa Premiership debut with the Thirsty Whale-sponsored Bay United.


His father is a former Metro FC striker who played in the former NZ National Soccer League, which ceased as a competition in 2004 and is McHenery's Western Pride assistant coach. His mother was a midfielder at social competitive level but his slide from the engine room to putting up the shutters in the back is perhaps owing to his height.

"I'm a taller [than dad] by a whole head," he says before Bay United kick off at 2pm away at William Green Domain in Auckland against undefeated Eastern Suburbs tomorrow.

He emphasises his parents have encouraged him in the beautiful game, which he hopes to take to higher honours in A-League and one day represent the country at age-group level and the All Whites.

When coach Brett Angell contacted him, McHenery didn't blink, calmly embracing the challenge outside his comfort zone.

"It was going to be a good opportunity to play football in a different surroundings and at a better level."

Having made the starting XI for two draws and a victory, McHenery is quick to attest to a higher standard of soccer in the national summer league here.

He relishes the high-octane arenas where he learns more from older players around and against him as opposed to playing alongside peers in Queensland.

He is parked alongside veteran player/assistant coach Bill Robertson, with Graham Craven also a centreback and Kohei Matsumoto, of Japan, on the left flank to form the last line of defence in front of goalkeeper Ruben Parker Hanks.

"Especially Bill. He's been good so its good coming from a player rather than a coach from the sideline."

Playing a full-press attack and defence style under Angell is new to him but he's enjoying it on the foundation of a portfolio that is crystal clear of what the coach wants of him.

"As a rightback I suppose I have to just deal with the wingers."

McHenery enjoys having the licence to push up a little although he isn't a wing back as such.

His fitness levels were put to the test initially but he has gradually built a battle-hardened template with trainings and matches.

"So far we've defended quite well so it'll be good if we can keep it going for the rest of the season."

He is working on recognising opposition players' strengths and trying to nullify it.

McHenery is expecting a tough game from the Danny Hay-coached Eastern Suburbs sitting in third place on the premiership ladder.

"We want to be a bit more clinical in the final third."

He believes the mantra of attacking as 11 and falling back in numbers to defend negates the need to apportion blame on only those at the coal face to find the net.

McHenery has been caught offside a few times and sees that as evidence that he does switch on to the attack mode sporadically.


EASTERN SUBURBS: 1 Silvio Rodic (GK), 2 Finn Cochran, 3 Ryan Elder, 4 Brock Messenger, 5 Reese Cox, 6 Jordan Vale, 7 Tim Payne, 8 Moses Dyer, 10 Andre de Jong, 11 Ben Thomas, 12 Hayden Johns, 13 Rossi Nkoy, 15 Harry Redwood, 16 Regont Murati, 18 Tristan Prattley, 19 Nicolas Zambrano, 20 Derek Tieku, 25 Zac Speedy (RGK).
Coach: Danny Hay.

HAWKE'S BAY UNITED: 1 Ruben Parker Hanks (GK), 2 Hayden McHenery, 3 Kohei Matsumoto, 4 Graham Craven, 5 Bill Robertson, 6 Alex Palezevic, 7 Wesley Cain, 10 Adam Thurston, 11 Hayato Wakino, 14 Gavin Hoy, 15 Jim Hoyle, 16 Liam Hayes, 17 Fergus Neil, 19 Birhanu Taye, 21 Bjorn Christensen, 26 Mackenzie Waite (RGK).
Coach: Brett Angell.
Ast coach: Jamie Dunning.