Deri Corfe towers over some of his new teammates at Napier City Rovers.
Standing at 1.88m tall, the proven goalscorer also has the physical strength to hold off and power his way through defenders; something highlighted by numerous compilation videos on his YouTube channel from previous stints playing as a teen for youth teams at glamour English Premier League club Manchester City, and then professionally in the US.
But that size - which Napier City Rovers are hoping will make him a handful for defenders throughout the 2023 Central League, and then the National League, qualification dependent - was lacking towards the end of his stint with Manchester City.
Corfe’s smaller stature back then, compared to others in the English club’s junior set-up, saw him eventually being offloaded by Manchester City when he was 18.
“You might not be able to tell [now], but I was a really late developer as a 16, 17 and 18-year-old,” he said.
“I was not growing or filling into myself and it got to a point [where I was told]: ‘We don’t see you at this club anymore... you’re too small.’
“So, it was a case of what next?”
Corfe had spent six years on Manchester City’s youth books, from the age of 12.
At 16, the club offered him a scholarship; something he said was a “big achievement” and an immense source of pride for him and his family.
Former Manchester City youth team colleagues of Corfe’s who have gone on to professional top-flight football careers include England star Phil Foden, German international Lukas Nmecha and Fulham centre-back Tosin Adarabioyo.
“There are only so many spots and it is tough to compete with a lot of lads from all over the world who are trying to get the same thing that you want,” he said.
“It was a really good experience, but it was really tough as well.”
Despite receiving the blow that he was not to be retained by Manchester City, Corfe said the club was still “very supportive” of him.
That included helping with prospective teams and also giving him the option, which he took up, to begin an American scholarship with the University of Rio Grande in Ohio.
“That was probably one of the best decisions I have made in my life,” Corfe, now aged 25, said.
“That allowed me to play football every day, it was a fulltime environment and was really good.”
Corfe then went on to study at fellow Ohio university, Wright State University, before being selected 41st overall in the 2020 Major League Soccer SuperDraft by the New York Red Bulls.
He spent a season with the Red Bulls’ reserve team, before playing in the American third tier with FC Tuscan. Last season he linked with Arbroath, who play in the Scottish Championship - Scotland’s second-tier league.
His highlight clips from all those teams show he is adept at using his now big stature to good effect against defenders.
“I like to shove my body in there... definitely,” he said. “That is a big part of my game and I think people will see that this year.”
Corfe got his goalscoring account in New Zealand off the mark with a second-half strike in Napier City Rovers’ 4-2 loss on the road to Petone FC.
His path to New Zealand came after being contacted by Napier City Rovers coach Bill Robertson early this year.
“Once he told me about the set-up of the league it sounded really appealing and I thought, ‘Let’s go and give it a go’.”
Prior to Robertson making contact, he had never considered New Zealand as a footballing destination.
“Maybe New Zealand wasn’t on my radar,” Corfe said. “But I have always told myself I would go and play anywhere, as long as I can enjoy my football and express myself.”
He said his family were also initially surprised he had chosen to travel so far for his sport.
“They always know I will go anywhere to play football,” he said.
“But I think when I brought up New Zealand, they were like, ‘Wow, that is some journey... to the other side of the world’. You could say they were shocked, but they support me in everything I do.”
Corfe is set to make his third start for Napier City Rovers when they take on Miramar Rangers on Sunday at Bluewater Stadium.
The weekend will double as Napier City Rovers’ 50th anniversary celebrations. They go into the match in sixth spot on the Central League points table, with a win and a loss. Miramar have an identical record but are in fifth, on goal difference.
As part of the 50th celebrations, a curtainraiser featuring two teams made of some of Napier City Rovers’ most-loved players will kick off at noon.
Four teams from the Central League will qualify for the 2023 National League. The Wellington Phoenix Reserves are guaranteed one of those spots; the remaining places go to the league’s other three highest-finishing clubs.
Playing in the National League was something that “appealed” to Corfe.
As well as impressing on the field with Napier City Rovers, he also wants to leave a positive legacy off the field.
Corfe is also coaching Napier City Rovers’ under-15 team this year, saying coaching or being a football agent were options for him post his playing career.
But that moment is many years away, with Corfe saying he hoped his linking with Napier City Rovers would be a springboard to continue his footballing travels in a top-tier league somewhere else in the world.
“Everyone wants to play at the highest level they possibly can,” he said.
“So, for me right now, my goal is to have a good season, hopefully, score a lot of goals and then see what happens. In my career, I want to play in a first division somewhere and see how far I can go.”
- Napier City Rovers v Miramar Rangers: kickoff 2pm, Bluewater Stadium, Napier.