Take a long hard look at Ben Lack the next time you see him come off the bench for Hawke's Bay United.

That's because Lack will be the face of the future of what the national soccer summer league will look like.

"It's a great honour. I've been watching them play since I was young and thinking about the day I could get in to play," says the 19-year-old centre midfielder before the Thirsty Whale-sponsored side host Canterbury United Dragons at Park Island, Napier, tomorrow.

In his debut season, Lack will be thrilled to add more minutes on his debut season of the ISPS Handa Premiership in the Skysport-televised 4.35pm kick off at Bluewater Stadium.


The call up to the squad in January was a lot sooner than he had anticipated in trying to ease into the equation of Bay United coach Brett Angell.

In fact, Lack, who is in a gap year working at a Napier supermarket, wasn't expecting a break at this level until after he was going to attend Victoria University in Wellington this year to pursue a degree in commerce with major in management and computer science.

However, Bay United assistant coach Jamie Dunning gave Lack a call to attend training with the big boys in January, soon after his campaign with the Bay United Youth team had ended before Christmas.

"In the first few trainings, I was quite nervous because I didn't know too many people except for Jorge [Akers]," says the former Napier Boys' High School pupil of his former Napier Marist club mate. He also is good mates with fellow Marist teenage midfielder Josh Murphy also training and hanging out for game time with Bay United.

However, the training got harder but he has built a rapport and is thoroughly enjoying it.

Lack thinks "it's crazy" that the franchise team looks anaemic because it's devoid of homegrown talent and accepts he has the responsibility of changing it with other emerging talent here.

"I hope that happens in the future because I've grown up here."

The former Reignier Catholic School and Taradale Intermediate pupil found it pretty nerve-wracking at the start because most his games were close affairs "because obviously I didn't want to stuff things up, you know".

A couple of touches did help soothe his jangled nerves in a position dubbed the engine room so all that training kicks in.

"Brett's a great coach," he says, only having him coach a couple of times as a mentor when Angell guided age-group Central Football sides.

Lack is hoping he'll give the younger guns more game time tomorrow considering the playoffs hopes were dashed in the previous round a fortnight ago.

His youth side, who tend to struggle in their league, gave their Canterbury counterparts a good go before the hosts pipped them in English Park, Christchurch, recently.

"It's going to be a hard game [against the Dragons]. They scored three goals in about 10 minutes," he after watching the visitors crushed the Bill Robertson-captained Bay United 3-0 on December 17.

The Cantabrians have moved into fourth place on the premiership rung but are on equal 29 points with Eastern Suburbs so returning home without a point will be unthinkable for the Dragons.

That, of course, doesn't mean the hosts can't make them squirm.

"I think we're capable of beating them - very capable, especially if we stick to our game plan," says Lack, reiterating Angell's anthem this summer, reflecting on how they upset Eastern Suburbs in Palmerston North on January 28.

His mother, Sheree, a dentist's assistant, and father Martin, a police officer, have supported him throughout his sporting pursuits and for that he is thankful.

The parents had signed their 5-year-old when the Napier Marist FC junior club had just started. Martin followed his son the game but only at a social competitive club level.

Lack suspects they live just down the road from Park Island so enrolling him in the junior club made sense.

"I'm not sure where my skills come from," he says with a laugh, adding his mother was a netballer.

Watching the mesmerising skills of super stars, such as Cristiano Ronaldo, captured his imagination.

He started as a striker in the junior ranks when he was 12. Making the Central Federation age-group representative team was a big deal not long after.

An invite to the national talent centre followed when he was 14.

Junior coaches Kevin Murphy, Josh's father, and Glenn Restieaux were his initial motivators before Scott Hales and Leon Birnie, now the New Zealand age-group women's mentor, helped hone his skills.

At the HB Pacific Premiership winter league level former All Whites striker, Marty Akers, Jorge's father, refined his talent even more with Napier Marist.

The senior Akers, who he looks up to as well, gave him a bit more motivational spark in the beautiful game, after arranging a trip to join Fusion Football team in England.

"We played against [age-group] teams like Fulham, Watford, QPR [Queen's Park Rangers] to see what it was like over there and it was just crazy, crazy jump from here.

"Once I played there I thought, 'This is what I want to do'."

But Dunning, he emphasises, has had the biggest influence in drawing up his constitution.

When Lack went to NBHS, the school coach encouraged him to play on either wing so his resume broadened and the right footer started using his left foot a lot more.

"It wasn't until 2016 that Jamie [Dunning] started playing me at centre-mid for Napier Marist.

"He just called me in and said this is where I should play and that's where I've been ever since."

Lack reckons having lateral vision his crucial in the engine room to ensure a team has the freedom to move although he suspects he's more of a holding midfielder rather than an attacking one.

He has ambitions to play the sport overseas but competing in the A-League appeals.

"Whatever opportunity comes my way I'll have to take it," he says, mindful he will realise his overseas dream early if Bay United win the premiership and earn the right to compete in the Oceania League (O-League) to foot it against the South Pacific Island high fliers.

In July last year, he was a member of the Central Fed under-19 futsal team who won the national under-19 tournament in Palmerston North.

He also was part of the NBHS futsal team in 2016 who lost the national secondary schoolboys' final to Kavanagh College, of Dunedin.

Hawke's Bay Utd: 1. Mackenzie Waite (GK), 5. Bill Robertson (c), 6. Alex Palezevic, 7. Wesley Cain, 8. Sam St De Croix, 9. Samuel Adjei, 11. Hayato Wakino, 12. Ben Lack, 13. Jordan Lamb, 15. Jim Hoyle, 16. Tinashe Marowa, 18. Josh Murphy, 19. Birhanu Taye, 22. Jorge Akers, 24. Karanjit Mandair, 33. Wilson McCullough (RGK).
Coach: Brett Angell.

Canterbury Utd Dragons: 1. Coey Turipa (GK), 2. Dan Terris, 3. Aaron Spain, 5. Tom Schwarz, 6. Gary Ogilvie, 7. Travis Nicklaw, 8. Luke Tongue, 10. Futa Nakamura, 12. George King, 13. Lewis Gordon (RGK), 14. Sean Liddicoat, 16. Cory Mitchell, 17. Stephen Hoyle, 19. Francis de Vries, 23. Sebastian Schacht, 30. Seth Clark.
Coach: Willy Gerdsen.