Hunter trio on the ball for Asian Cup

NORTHERN NSW Institute of Sport coach Wayne O’Sullivan was over the moon when three members of his program made the Australian under-16 training squad for the Asian Cup.

But O’Sullivan could not help thinking of what might have been for another member – Beresfield’s Andrew Pawiak.

Fellow Hunter Region players Reece Papas, Brandon Lundy and Jaiden Walker were selected in a 26-strong squad for a training camp at the Australian Institute of Sport, in Canberra, last weekend.

Joeys coach Alistair Edwards and assistant Tony Vidmar used the camp as the first part of their preparation for the Asian Under-16 Championships in Iran, which will be held from September 21 to October 6.

O’Sullivan said the selection of three Northern NSW players was a boost for the region.

But he felt for Pawiak, whom he believed was likely to be selected if not for an administrative flaw.

He said a list of 50 potential selections had to be forwarded to the Asian Football Confederation for registration 12 months out from the tournament.

Pawiak was not placed on the list by a past coach and was therefore ineligible to play at the Asian Cup.

O’Sullivan said Pawiak had taken huge strides in his development over the past few months, earning a call-up to train alongside Papas with the Jets youth league squad.

‘‘The good thing for Andrew is he’s still going to move forward with the Jets and have opportunities,’’ he said. ‘‘Unfortunately he’s not alone in this situation but if they [Joeys] get through the qualifiying rounds, the World Cup is next year, so if he stays on that radar there will be opportunities.’’

As for the trio selected, O’Sullivan said their success was a feather in the cap for Northern NSW football.

‘‘In the past Northern players have been synonymous with being physically strong and up for a contest, which are great qualities we have tried to instil in the boys,’’ he said.

‘‘But in addition to that now there’s been an emphasis on the finer skills that are needed to compete at the higher level. These boys and the group as a whole are now well known as being technically strong.’’

The national squad will have several camps and tours before the final side to travel to Iran is selected.

‘‘Being in that mix means they’re in that top echelon of players in the country at this stage and that’s a great achievement in itself,’’ O’Sullivan said.

‘‘But they’ve got a long way to go and it means there’s an incentive for other players in the program, because they can see by training with these guys that they’re pretty close to it.’’

O’Sullivan said Lundy, from Seaham, was an exciting attacking player and Papas, from Lakelands, was a skilful midfielder who was part of the Australian under-15 side last year.

He was especially pleased for Walker, who moved from Lismore to Newcastle without his family to chase his football dream.

‘‘He’s staying away from home at such a young age, so it’s a huge commitment from him already,’’ he said.

Walker, a defender, lived with the Papas family for 12months and is now staying with fellow NSWIS player David Hecimovic at New Lambton.

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