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Kiwis abroad: Suburbs stars go pro

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

On the back of outstanding seasons in the ISPS Handa Premiership, the talented young Eastern Suburbs trio of Andre de Jong, Elijah Just and Dalton Wilkins have all joined the professional ranks.

All Whites striker de Jong is heading to South Africa to play for Amazulu FC while his former team mates have both signed for Danish second-tier outfit FC Helsingor.

"I am really looking forward to my time here and am happy to join a team with plenty of ambition," said de Jong after a successful trial.

"I think the level here is really high. I want to work hard for the team and hopefully consolidate a place in the line-up soon. I can’t wait to get back here for pre-season, the team and coach helped me settle in well."

Just and Wilkins are equally enthused to be taking the first steps of a European career and will link up with their new club after featuring for New Zealand at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Poland, which kicks off later this month.

"I got a very positive impression of the club," Just said.

"There is a long-term plan and a great new stadium to play in next year. I’m really looking forward to getting started."

Wood ends as second-highest scorer

All Whites striker Chris Wood has signed off on the English Premier League season as Burnley’s second-highest scorer, behind only Ashley Barnes after his strike partner found the net in the final game of the campaign.

Wood and Barnes went into the home match against Arsenal level on 10 goals each but the latter edged ahead with a header from close range.

Wood did have a chance to finish with another goal when he held off the challenge of Konstantinos Mavropanos and shot from the edge of the area but his effort ricocheted off the inside of the post and bounced clear.

He featured in all 38 of Burnley’s league games this season as they finished 15th, starting 29 times. He also scored twice in the Europa League and one in the FA Cup for a total tally of 13.

Football League beckons for Crocombe

All Whites goalkeeper Max Crocombe could be in line for a return to England’s top tiers after earning promotion to League Two with Salford City.

Owned by a consortium that includes Manchester United legends Gary and Phil Neville, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt, Salford have enjoyed a rapid rise from the lower echelons of the non-league game, securing four promotions in five seasons on their way to the Football League.

The most recent step up was made at Wembley with a 3-0 win over Fylde in the National League play-off final but it remains to be seen whether Crocombe will still be involved.

Again an unused substitute at Wembley, he lost his number one jersey to Chris Neal this season and is able to explore his options as his contract with Salford has now expired.

He is no stranger to the Football League after coming through the ranks at Oxford United and then moving to Carlisle United before becoming part of Salford’s remarkable revolution.

Rojas misses out on Europa League

What could prove to be a first-and-only season for Marco Rojas at Danish Superliga side SonderjyskE has ended in disappointment with a loss in the second leg of their play-off for a place in the Europa League play-offs.

The All Whites playmaker kept his place for the visit to Randers after a 1-1 draw in the home leg and it proved to be an eventful match, the hosts eventually triumphing 4-3 to go through at SonderjyskE’s expense.

Rojas took full part in both legs of the play-off and made 11 appearances in total, six of those in the starting line-up.

His one-season contract has now come to an end but the club has an option to extend that, meaning discussions are likely over the coming days.

Woud breaks through in Netherlands

Young goalkeeper Michael Woud will head to the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Poland on the back of a confidence-boosting period at the top of the Dutch game, in which he has recently made four starts for Willem II.

After several seasons in the academy set up at English outfit Sunderland but no senior appearances, Woud headed to the Netherlands on a two-year deal and has forced his way into the first-team picture.

He made his professional debut this March in a 3-2 win against Fortuna Sittard and his latest appearance came last weekend but didn’t end happily as Willem lost a five-goal thriller to FC Emmen.

The result ended their chances of making the Europa League and proved to be Woud’s final involvement of the season as number one Timon Wellenreuther recovered from injury to return between the sticks in mid-week against ADO Den Haag. The goalkeeping switch didn’t bring about a change in fortunes as Willem were swept aside 6-2 with Woud looking on from the bench.

Willem finished tenth on the 18-team table and Would will now travel to Poland to meet up with the rest of his New Zealand U-20 team mates before meeting Honduras in their opening match of the World Cup on 25 May (NZT).

Draper reaches decade with Saints

Former All Whites striker Greg Draper has signed a new two-year deal at The New Saints, which will bring up a decade of service for the Welsh champions.

Their top scorer for the past two campaigns, the Saints were understandably keen to secure the signature of the 29-year-old.

"It’s great to see Greg committing an extension to his contract and I foresee the goal machine continuing to lead the way with his goals," chairman Mike Harris said.

The feeling is mutual with Draper delighted to be staying at the club, which lies on the border of Wales and England.

"It’s a great feeling to know that I’m going to be here for another two years," he said.

"All I’ll be focusing on is helping add more league titles and cup trophies to the 17 we’ve won in the last eight years, along with progressing further in Europe."

Saints did the league-and-cup double in the recently-completed season with Draper finding the net nearly 40 times.

Mixed fortunes for Kiwis in USA

The All Whites pair of Deklan Wynne and Tommy Smith have become part of an unwanted record with the Colorado Rapids now making the worst start to a campaign in Major League Soccer (MLS) history.

Only two points have been taken from the first 11 games, the latest defeat being 3-2 to Real Salt Lake. Wynne played the full match while Smith was an unused substitute.

Fellow All White Bill Tuiloma continued to feature prominently for the Portland Timbers but was also on the losing side in a 1-0 defeat at the Vancouver Whitecaps. Tuiloma nearly scored at both ends, his blushes being spared when a finger-tip save prevented an own goal from a glancing header before he tested the right goalkeeper when getting his head to a corner.

Meanwhile, a couple of Kiwis were in the goals in the United Soccer League (USL), Elliot Collier helping himself to a second of the season for Memphis 901 in a 2-1 win over Hartford Athletic - the big striker also picking up man-of-the-match honours - while James Musa rifled in a long-range rocket for the Phoenix Rising in a 3-1 win over Rio Grande Valley.

The side Musa’s stunner helped defeat featured fellow Kiwi Kyle Adams in his regular starting berth at the back.

In the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), the winning streak of Abby Erceg’s North Carolina Courage finally came to an end after 17 games. The defending champions were upset 3-1 by the Chicago Red Stars, Erceg nearly getting on the scoresheet when her downward header glanced off the post.

The Utah Royals also fell to their first defeat of the season, Katie Bowen playing all 90 minutes of a 2-1 loss to the Houston Dash at right back.

Ferns trio sign off on seasons

The Football Ferns trio of Ria Percival, Ali Riley and Meikayla Moore have all signed off on their club seasons in recent days with thoughts now turning to the build-up to the FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Having made history by becoming the first New Zealander to play at Wembley in an FA Cup final but suffering disappointment with a loss to Manchester City, Percival ended on a further low note as West Ham United went down to Brighton and Hove Albion 4-0 in their final league game.

It was a successful campaign for both Percival and the team though, the 29-year-old becoming a key player as the Hammers established themselves in the top flight with a mid-table finish.

Riley’s Chelsea end in third with the Ferns captain signing off in an 8-0 win over Yeovil Town, for whom fellow Kiwi Monique Fischer was an unused substitute. Riley started the match but did not feature in the Blues’ last FA Women’s Super League game, a 3-2 win against Reading.

Moore wasn’t able to finish with a victory as MSV Duisburg went down 2-0 to Frankfurt but can be satisfied with her efforts nonetheless, being prevented from featuring in all games only through Football Ferns duty as her side avoided relegation.

Scandinavian Ferns take confidence into Cup

The three Football Ferns based in Scandinavia will take confidence going into New Zealand’s upcoming FIFA Women’s World Cup campaign after featuring prominently for their clubs in recent days.

CJ Bott’s Vittsjo GIK earned a third win in four games to sit fourth in the Swedish Damallsvenskan and the fullback played a key role in the 1-0 triumph over Ekilstuna United, putting in another strong showing and supplying the cross for the goal.

Rebekah Stott and Victoria Esson also contributed significantly in a 4-0 win for Avaldsnes over Stabaek, joining forces to keep a clean sheet. Stott has played every minute in the backline while goalkeeper Esson was making her second start of the campaign.

The news wasn’t so positive for Iceland-based Betsy Hassett, the midfielder suffering a broken wrist as KR Reykjavík were edged out 1-0 by HK/Vikingur. Hassett missed the next match but is expected to be available to Football Ferns coach Tom Sermanni for the majority of the side’s World Cup build-up.

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