New Zealand Football seems to be on a developmental road to nowhere, which if it continues, will have severe implications for the game here.

While there is justifiable concern about the direction of the Football Ferns, after the fallout following last Sunday's insipid display against Japan, there is much, much more at stake.

Based on the current model, led by New Zealand Football technical director Andreas Heraf, this country will struggle to produce players good enough for the professional game in the coming years.

While there has been a lot of focus on former Ferns captain Abby Erceg, and her brutally honest comments around why she left, there is a wider point here.


Where exactly is the next Abby Erceg going to come from? It's hard to see how it could come through the system espoused by Heraf, and currently mandated to all the national age group and development teams.

Whatever the system, modern football requires high levels of technical ability, in all positions.

Watch any game from the upcoming World Cup and you'll see central defenders tidy in possession and comfortable on the ball, a far cry from the tradesmen of decades past.

Even goalkeepers need to be sound on the ground, and preferably capable with both feet.

The technical benchmark just increases as you move up the field, as time and space reduces.

Former Football Ferns Abby Erceg. Photo / Photosport
Former Football Ferns Abby Erceg. Photo / Photosport

In New Zealand there has been some encouraging progress in that area over the last decade, with a deliberate shift in thinking, away from the Charlie Hughes-esque 'hoof it and hope' model, and the emergence of Ryan Thomas, Tyler Boyd, Sarpreet Singh and Annalie Longo are proof that anything is possible.

But under the Heraf-led program, there is surely no way that will continue.

Okay, maybe, and it's a big maybe, the Ferns and some other national teams could ground out a couple of results at major tournaments, based on superior fitness, a bit of luck, set pieces and some opposition mistakes.

It still seems unlikely, as such success is also dependent on a strong, vibrant team culture and a clear bond between players and the coaching staff (currently not there with the Ferns) but the greater concern is the type of player that will be produced.

If they are unable to play with the ball to any degree – which is not a priority under this system – there is no way they will get picked up by overseas clubs.

Not when there is countries on every continent producing talented individuals, who can live at that level.

The worst case scenario will see our national teams, especially on the women's side, revert to the days of being mainly amateur teams.

When Heraf said last Sunday that this country could "never compete" with Japan, he was actually absolutely correct.

New Zealand won't be able to compete with the Nadeshiko Japan, nor any other mid-range to top tier nation in the foreseeable future, not if the current set up and mentality at NZF remains the status quo.