When Sam Wall runs onto the park there's quite often enough tension to produce nervous energy.

You could amp up a lead guitar to provide some accompaniment to a Park Island faithful rendition of Come on you Blues.

But Wall has learned how to channel that sort of energy and hit the right notes of excitement in his debut season with the Thirsty Whale Napier City Rovers this winter.

"I do get a bit nervous but usually they [teammates] just help calm me down," says the 16-year-old before the final round-18 match against Wellington Olympic at Bluewater Stadium in a 2pm kick off today.

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The second-placed Blues need to beat the third-placed Greeks to retain their perch on the ladder, behind impending champions Western Suburbs, or else plummet to fifth place.
Admittedly the significance of preparing for this demanding encounter doubles up as a dress rehearsal for the higher denomination national knockout Chatham cup semifinal match here against Onehunga Sports on Sunday next week.

No one more encapsulates that wide-eyed embodiment of embracing the higher echelons of football satisfaction right now than Wall.

The Year 11 pupil from Lindisfarne College had started against Albany United in the cup quarterfinal here after Japanese import Sho Goto had become a victim of a virus that swept through the entire squad although he was substituted in the 60th minute because he had started cramping.

It had come on the heels of three off-the-bench appearances in the league but player/coach Bill Robertson gave the defensive midfielder another start — this time 90-plus minutes — in the 4-3 victory on the road against Lower Hutt City last Saturday.

"Just being able to play alongside others who are so good and experienced is helping me out a lot," he says, relishing his position of feeding off second-phase balls from the engine room but also building a rapport with Robertson and the other Beefeaters in the back line.

It doesn't escape his attention that the passes are slicker and the touches more cultured, demanding more grunt in his template to forage for possession. The teenager expects the Greeks to bring a similar intention today.

"The league's second but we don't want to lose because we'll go down to fifth if all the other teams win their games but Chatham Cup is definitely our priority."

Wall has been a member of the four-time cup champion club since he was 11 years old, following in the footsteps of older brother Willis, 20, a former Napier Marist first division player who is now at university.

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The former Ongaonga School pupil, the son of Central Hawke's Bay livestock farmers Pandada and John Wall, started at the age of 4 as a striker but moved to defensive midfielder at 13.

"It [the game] connects you with everyone and it's always a challenge."

Sam Wall has lofty ambitions to make it as a professional, drawing inspiration from former Wellington Phoenix midfielder Sarpreet Singh that anything is possible.

"It's confidence as well that someone can do it [from here]," he says, hoping to train with Hawke's Bay United this summer.

Captain Fergus Neil, Martin Bueno and Liam Schofield are out today on accumulated yellow-card suspensions.