Sunday's ISPS Handa Premiership final might have been Callum McCowatt's final bow on these shores for some time — and that would be great for New Zealand football.

McCowatt is a young man in a hurry and one of the best local products for some time.

His coach, former Leeds and All Whites defender Danny Hay, has no doubts, saying he will be an important player for the national team for "years to come".

His performance in Eastern Suburbs' 3-0 win over Team Wellington was superb, and even aged 19, McCowatt has probably outgrown the football scene in this country.


A move overseas beckons — probably to Europe — and his talents will be further in the shop window at next month's Under-20 World Cup.

There is still a long way to go and plenty of other highly-touted Kiwi youngsters have moved overseas in the past without making the ultimate breakthrough.

But McCowatt ticks plenty of boxes: work ethic, touch, vision, skill, pace and an eye for a goal. He's also grounded and handles the mental side better than most teenagers.

"He's a really exciting prospect for the game in this country," said Hay. "It's not going to be long now before we see him off over to bigger and better things, and hopefully that is somewhere in Europe. He's going to be around for many years to come and he's going to be an important player for the All Whites."

In a superb team performance, McCowatt was the crown jewel. He claimed the Steve Sumner medal for man of the match in the final for the second consecutive year (imagine how proud the All Whites legend would have been) with a breath-taking display.

The game's first goal ended up in the net via a deflection but the clean strike of the volley across goal took considerable skill.

The second goal was even better; a wicked curling shot from outside the area that wouldn't have been out of place in much grander football arenas than QBE Stadium, while the third showed poise, control and a strong left-foot shot.

"A couple of fortunate goals maybe but I'll take them," said McCowatt. "I tried to work hard, find my spaces and get over the back three. We caused them a lot of problems and that showed."


McCowatt had trials in Europe last June and will return north for more this year after the Under-20 World Cup in Poland.

"I need to keep going, I can't get complacent," said McCowatt. "No matter how many goals I score, I want to score more and win more. It's part of the game; you need to win big games to get yourself places. Hopefully I can find somewhere else, out of New Zealand, I can just step up a bit in football and keep on improving."

As Hay pointed out, Sunday's result was positive for the sport, with plenty of young locals on display.

Eastern Suburbs were perhaps fortunate to avoid Auckland City in the final — as they had lost to the Kiwitea-based outfit twice during the regular season — but swept Team Wellington off the park with a fine display of attacking bravado and defensive grit.

While the victory was historic for Eastern Suburbs — their first national league title since 1971 — it was a win built in the capital, with the arrival of a crop of Ole Academy youngsters this season (among them McCowatt, Elijah Just and Owen Parker-Price) adding an irresistible sheen to Hay's already solid foundations.