Jorge Akers did what any sound person would do when another opportunity arose to further his playing career — he crossed the bridge.

This time the former Napier Marist prodigy crossed Chesterhope Bridge, rather than Clyde Jeffery Dr at Park Island, to join the promising ranks of the Building King Havelock North Wanderers campaign in the Ultra Football Central League this winter.

Akers returned from England a fortnight ago where he was putting his feelers out for a contract with third-tier League One campaigners AFC Wimbledon and second-tier championship contenders Birmingham City a fortnight ago after completing his stint with Thirsty Whale Hawke's Bay United in the ISPS Handa Premiership (national league) last summer.

So why didn't the striker return to the fold of Central League leaders Thirsty Whale Napier City Rovers?

Advertisement

"I just feel, having talked to Chris [Greatholder] and Dion [Adams] down at Havelock North that I'll have the opportunity to playing a lot more frequently and up top," says the 18-year-old who made the starting leftback position his own in the second half of the season under Bay United coach Brett Angell's tutelage.

Akers rightly surmises the Bill Robertson-coached Blues are doing well as Central League leaders with a quota of imports.

"I was going to find it quite hard to get game time there. Havelock are looking for a centre forward so I thought I'd fit in quite well there," he says before coach Greatholder and co-assistant coach Adams psyche up Wanderers for the round-nine match against defending champions Advance Electrical Western Suburbs at Guthrie Park for a 1pm kick off tomorrow in the village.

The blue and golds are on a high after eking out a second victory — beating Wellington Olympic away in the capital city 2-1 with goals from captain Ethan Dent and Solomon Islands import winger Gagame Feni — to stay on track to avoid relegation in their debut season after responding to an SOS from Central League organisers in the 11th hour after Team Taranaki pulled the plug because of a player dearth.

The Wanderers are sitting last on the table on equal six points with newly promoted side Integration Works Waterside Karori who boast a superior goal difference above them after a win by a similar margin over Wairarapa United last weekend.

However, the traditionally established Miramar Rangers sit precariously only a point above the pair.

Consequently, Central League is providing an equally intriguing battle at the bottom of the table as teams try to stave off relegation.

Akers, it seems, has timed his run well and should develop alongside the likes of Feni, fellow Solomon Islands import Ian Paia and Liam Shackleton on the wing.

He started training with the villagers on Tuesday last week and is enjoying the training with the hope of running on tomorrow to make his debut.

The Declan Edge-coached Suburbs, the only team to beat the Rovers, will be a baptism of fire in some ways although Akers has played against the side in previous winters as well as the Wellington youth side who former international Edge coaches as well.

Suburbs, who are in fourth place on the league table on equal 15 points with Wellington United above them on a marginally superior goal difference, will bring their brand of crisp passing game under a youthful squad, as they did when they calmly left Bluewater Stadium with the O'Brien Challenge Shield on April 22.

However, the game will have more spice now after Chatham Cup draws were released on Thursday night, revealing Havelock North are hosting Suburbs again in round two of the national knockout kick off at 1pm on Queen's Birthday Monday, June 4.

If nothing, it'll be an ideal dress rehearsal for the cup.

But Akers' motives aren't just about him but also about helping ensure the Wanderers stay in Central League next winter.

"If they can secure another year in Central League it'll be a lot easier for them to sign up more players because they only got two weeks' notice before they joined the Central League this year. It was hard but they are ticking along quite well."

While he has never worked with Greatholder before, the teenager says he's only heard good things about the Bay United skipper and is keen to learn from him.

Jorge Akers (centre) trains with Havelock North Wanderers in the hope of making his debut against Western Suburbs in the village tomorrow. Photo/Paul Taylor
Jorge Akers (centre) trains with Havelock North Wanderers in the hope of making his debut against Western Suburbs in the village tomorrow. Photo/Paul Taylor

The former Napier Boys' High School pupil, whose father Marty Akers is a former Blues and All Whites international, feels he was quite unlucky during the English trials with the clubs' under-23 grades because they had quite a few games backed up.

"I didn't have international clearance at the time but it was a great experience," he says, training with the club's championship players and coming away wiser for it.

"They are much more physical and they are quicker so I had to know how to adapt to that quickly."

Akers came away mindful he didn't fit the mould of Wimbledon who needed mature players in rapid time because they didn't have the lucrative bank balances of other prosperous clubs who have the luxury of time and resources to groom young talent for the first team.

He played an under-23 game for Birmingham City against Bolton and even scored a goal in the 3-0 victory before finding himself on the bench for another clash.

"They also wanted me to develop more as a player and then come back in another year or so," says Akers who left here on March 20 after the end of the Bay United campaign.

Akers believes he has mutated since his trip abroad and the daily training has hardened just right for the season here.

He is contemplating returning to play in the lower-tier leagues later this year when the new season kicks off around August.

Veteran midfielder Jared Bloor is out injured in the only change in the villagers' squad.

WANDERERS: 1 Shaun Peta, 2 Chris Greatholder, 3 James Barclay, 4 Campbell Whitworth, 5 Oli Chapman, 6 Vinny McKirdy, 7 Jorge Akers, 8 Ethan Dent (c), 9 Gagame Feni, 10 Ben Foxall, 11 Ian Paia, 12 Kenny Willox, 13 Harry Fautly, 14 Kurtis Maney, 15 Che Jesson-Bentley, 16 Jackson Ralph, 17 Liam Shackelton, 18 Stefan Kitching-Nicholson, 19 Guy Reeves, 20 Sam Waddington, 22 Nick Hayward.

Head coach: Chris Greatholder.
Ast co-coaches: Dion Adams, Bruce Barclay.
Manager: Tony Simons.
Physio: Colin Tutcheon.

WESTERN SUBURBS: 13 Isaac Tetteh (GK), 2 Ben Sippola, 3 Erik Panzer, 4 Nando Pijnaker, 7 Elijah Henry, 11 Xavier Green, 12 Alexander Clayton, 14 Dominic Woolridge, 16 Harrison Moss-Edge, 17 Matthew Garbett, 22 Sean Bright, 9 Mohamed Awad, 15 Robert Sabo, 19 Marko Stamenic, 21 Jaga Scott-Greenfield, 1 Liam McGrath (RGK).

Coach: Declan Edge.
Ast coach: Mark Atkinson.
Manager: Dean Mildenhall.
Analyst: Paul Woolridge.