The most successful football academy in the country is coming to Auckland.
Football development guru Declan Edge is bringing his talents and some of his players to the Queen City in a new partnership with Eastern Suburbs. It's a significant step.
The Ole Academy has been established in Wellington since 1997, under the stewardship of former All Whites manager Dave Wilson and his son Mike, who made seven appearances for the All Whites in the early 2000s.
Edge, who made his name as a coach in the Waikato, joined Ole as technical director in 2012.
Edge is recognised as one of the best developers of football talent in this country. His most notable product is All Whites midfielder Ryan Thomas, who this month ended five years at Eredivisie club PEC Zwolle with a move to Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven, the 24-time league champions who have also won the European Cup and UEFA Cup.
Edge also developed Tyler Boyd, playing in the Portuguese first division, and has a clutch of talented youngsters with him at Ole and Western Suburbs, including Callum McCowatt, Elijah Just and Owen Parker-Price.
Eastern Suburbs is bringing Edge and a number of his Ole coaches to Auckland for six weeks to train their coaches and learn the ingredients of their success.
"We want to replicate the Ole Academy here in Auckland," said Eastern Suburbs chairman Chris Ruffell. "We like their philosophies and everyone understands the success they have been having. We want to learn more about how to coach in the Ole way, and we want our teams to play that way, too. That's the way forward for us."
There are two elements to the partnership. At elite level, a number of Edge's top prospects from his Western Suburbs team are expected to join the Eastern Suburbs ISPS Handa Premiership side.
Edge will relocate to Auckland for part of the pre-season, working alongside head coach Danny Hay.
"There are principles and foundations we need to bed in and Declan will be there to help with that," said Ruffell.
"It's also important for the players coming up that there is an overlap with the coaches. Once the season starts, Declan will return to Wellington but he will remain a technical adviser for us."
At the development level, Eastern Suburbs plan to establish an Ole-based programme within their existing academy, restricted to 50-60 children drawn from across Auckland and surrounding areas.
"We want to attract the best of the best," said Ruffell. "It all starts with good coaching. I don't think there is enough investment into coaching in New Zealand and we want to help change that."