Today we look at arguably the best group of talented young players in the association’s history; the Metropolitan League teams of 2008-09.
The Metropolitan League (ML) was a representative competition run by Football NSW for Under 11 and Under 12 teams. Entry was only open to Association teams and led into the Youth League competition at Under 13 level and all players had to have lived in the Ku-ring-gai association area.
In 2008-09 the Ku-ring-gai ML programme was led by head coach Danny Hurwitz with assistance from team coaches Lloyd Robson and Paul Orgad. In addition to the two teams competing in ML, the programme also selected a Development squad out of those players who were just outside selection for the main teams. The Development squad trained once a week with the ML teams and individually with their club teams.
The competing teams were split into 2 conferences – North and South. Teams in each division would play each other twice at which time the teams played each of the South teams. At the end of 22 rounds the top 4 played off for the Championship.
In 2008 the Under 11s coached by Lloyd Robson were Premiers of the Northern conference and were narrowly defeated in the semi-final.
In 2009 the Under 11s led by Paul Orgad made it a repeat for Ku-ring-gai when crowned Premiers of the Northern Conference. The Under 12s (lead picture) under Robson however, made amends for the previous season by claiming both the Northern Conference and overall ML Premierships and then claiming the Championship in the grand final, played at Penrith Stadium.
The quality of this group can best be measured by the players in the program who have reached significant heights in football to-date. The following players have gone on to play in the A-League and/or Australian Under Age teams:
- George Blackwood (pictured) – Berowra FC (Sydney FC, Adelaide United, Australia Under 23s and Under 20s)
- Anthony Kalik – Northbridge FC (Central Coast Mariners, Sydney FC, Australia Under 20s, currently in Croatia)
- Daniel Alessi – SH Pymble SC and West Pymble FC (Western Sydney Wanderers, Newcastle Jets, Australia Under Under 20s, currently in England)
- Patrick Flottman – West Pymble FC (Sydney FC, Australia Under 20s)
- Tom Heward-Belle* – West Pymble FC (Western Sydney Wanderers Youth, Central Coast Mariners, Sydney FC, Australia Under 20s)
- Ryan Peterson – Chatswood Rangers SC (Central Coast Mariners, Northern Tigers FC, currently at university in USA)
*It is worth noting that Heward-Belle trialled as an outfield player but missed out on making the ML teams. He did make the Development Squad, however. Tom moved to Manly United in 2010 where he changed to playing goalkeeper. As current #2 goalkeeper at Sydney FC he appears to have made the right decision!
The following players also played for youth set ups in the A-League and overseas:
- Brad Paikin – Northside Monash SC (Western Sydney Wanderers Youth, U19 German league)
- Ryoyo Ito – Lindfield FC (Bayern Munich Youth, AC Schalke Youth in Germany)
- Daniel Buddle – Wahroonga, Kissing Point (played semi-professional football in England for 3 years and once scored in an FA Cup match)
In addition to these players the following are current or past Northern Tigers first graders:
- Nicholas Kalogerou (pictured) – North Sydney Bears FC.
- John “Mo” Bachelard – Corpus Christi Hawks and Wahroonga FC
- Zach Morris – Lindfield FC
- Aidan Hancock – West Pymble FC
- Oliver Stickland – Wahroonga FC
In 2010 the triumphant Under 12 team of 2009 broke apart as the players moved into Youth League. At that time Northern Tigers were in the second-tier Super League and most of that team were courted by the clubs playing in the first-tier Premier League competition. There were no residential restrictions in place for Youth Leagues then so it was almost inevitable that the clubs in the Premier League would be looking for players from the strong ML teams to bolster their youth squads. Only four players from that team stayed with Northern Tigers in 2010.