Young Jets defy age gap to make Asian qualifiers

BRIGHT FUTURES: Young Matildas Hannah Southwell, left, and Kobie Ferguson at Adamstown Oval on Thursday. Picture: Jonathan CarrollNEWCASTLE Jets women’s coach Peter McGuinness believes teenagers Hannah Southwell and Kobie Ferguson will not be just making up the numbers when they travel to Vietnam with the Young Matildas next week.
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The 15-year-old Jets W-League players were named on Wednesday in Australia’s squad of 23 for the Asian Football Confederation under-19 championship qualifiers in Hanoi between November 5 and 9.

Having already represented Australia’s Mini Matildas at the AFC under-16 women’s championship qualifiers in Malaysia last month, Southwell and Ferguson spent last week in a training camp in Canberra as part of a 26-player Young Matildas squad.

That group was trimmed to 23 for the AFC qualifiers against Hong Kong on Wednesday, Singapore on November 7 and host nation Vietnam on November 9.

‘‘For a couple of 15-year-olds making it into the under-19 national side, it’s a great achievement for them, and I would envisage that both of them will get game time,’’ McGuinness said.

Young Matildas coach Ante Juric included Southwell and Ferguson alongside Mini Matildas teammates Ellie Carpenter, Alex Chidiac and Princess Ibini-Isei.

‘‘We’ve had a number of high-quality training camps in Canberra recently, with the majority of players currently involved in the Westfield W-League,’’ Juric said.

‘‘In addition, I have included a number of the mini-Matildas who recently performed well at the AFC under-16 championship qualifiers in Malaysia.

‘‘We are all looking forward to the challenge of the upcoming three matches with the ultimate goal of qualifying for the AFC under-19 women’s championship next year,’’ Juric said.

‘‘I am very confident that this group of players have the necessary qualities to be successful.’’

Southwell made her senior debut in Newcastle’s 5-1 victory over Western Sydney Wanderers at Marconi Stadium on October 19 as the youngest goalkeeper in W-League history.

She was listed to back up against Brisbane Roar at Magic Park last Saturday but was ruled out in the warm-up due to tight hip flexors and fatigue after last week’s Young Matildas camp.

A central midfielder, Ferguson is yet to play a W-League game, but McGuinness has been impressed with her performance and attitude at training against more experienced players.

‘‘Kobie has got very good feet, a very good passing range and understands the game quite well, and she’ll fit in quite nicely,’’ he said.

‘‘She trains with our group and is doing quite well in and around and against some of the more seasoned players.

‘‘She’s a train-on player, so she’s not registered, but she can be called on if required.’’

The top team from the qualifiers in Hanoi advance to next year’s AFC under-19 women’s championship in Nanjing, China, from August 19 to 30.

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