Live is Life: Melville U19s sparkle in Napier

Melville United attracted attention on and off the pitch at the Napier City Rovers U19 Youth Tournament at Park Island over Labour Weekend.

The Baby Unicorns won admirers for their approach to the tournament, sticking to the principles established through the NRFL Division One season and carried on by the best U19 talent at the club – many of whom featured for the first team throughout 2018.

The U19s returned to the semi-finals of the tournament for the first time since 2001, losing 0-3 to eventual champions Birkenhead United.

In defiance of some sections of the football family who claim the annual tournament provides too many matches in a short space of time, Melville United coach Sam Wilkinson took to Twitter post-event to praise the tournament and its role in player development.

“Great weekend at the [Napier City Rovers] U19 tournament. For all the sports science ‘experts’ claiming its too many games in a short space of time – put your text book down and have a day off. No one is asking the players to complete this load every weekend. Learning to play when you are physically and mentally tired builds grit. And every team has a squad of 18, use your whole squad to help manage the load on the players.”

First team coaches Wilkinson and Michael Mayne took a back seat for the annual event, with the former canvassing the pitches at Park Island for an elusive diamond-in-the-rough, and the latter in Palmerston North guiding the WaiBOP women’s national league side to their maiden win for the season.

It was Simon Tyndel who took the lead, as he did through the NRFL Division One Reserve season, ably supported by Zeya Hussaini and Neil Mouncher. Meanwhile, U19 tournament founder Roger Wilkinson was also on hand to provide nuggets of information to the technical staff and players as well as an endless supply of gags to anyone within ear shot.

In the playing stocks first team regular Liam Steffert returned to the pitch after a long-term injury, and together with Logan Wisnewski stood out amongst their peers but were also supported by a cast of no fewer than 10 other players who appeared for the club’s premier side this season.

The squad also featured five players promoted from the Melville United Academy U16 group; with Campbell Brown, Fin Conchie, Josh Galletly, Ryen Lawrence and Aarun Lim all contributing heavily over the three day competition.

Such was the strength of depth within the club at U19 level that Melville were one of the few teams at the tournament to opt not to include any “guest” players within their ranks.

Fifteen-year-old left sided defender Brown was identified by head coach Simon Tyndel as the unofficial Melville player of the tournament, turning in several impressive performances. Meanwhile, diminutive midfielder Levi Clark was named to the official tournament team at the conclusion of the final.

Melville also turned heads off the pitch with their ever present Boom Box – a post season purchase by self-proclaimed Chief Entertainment Officer Seamus Marten – blasting out an eclectic mix of songs played during warm ups as the U19s channelled Diego Maradaona and his free flowing preparations for Napoli in the late 1980s.

In fact, the backing track for that 1989 clip “Live is Life” became the anthem for the weekend, so much so that incumbent first teamers Liam Hayes and Luke Searle insisted that the strategy be employed at all NRFL games in 2019.

It says a lot for the culture being developed at Melville that Hayes and Searle elected to spend their long weekend supporting the U19s. Hayes reprised his 2017 role with the squad as Assistant to the Manager while Searle chipped in as physio, a role he performed sporadically at away matches following his season ending injury.

Fellow first teamer Dilan Nanayakkara also made an appearance at Park Island to lend his support. The defender now calls Napier home after signing for Hawke’s Bay United in the ISPS Handa Premiership. His Hawke’s Bay and Melville teammate Jordan Lamb was unable to attend due to transport issues.

The Timings family also made their annual pilgrimage to the Hawke’s Bay and were spotted enjoying the early summer sun while taking in the action on the pitch.

Melville concluded day one unbeaten with a pair of 1-0 wins over Bay Olympic and Three Kings United as well as a hard fought 1-1 draw with Glenfield Rovers.

Day two opened with a 1-0 win over Lower Hutt City courtesy of a Wisnewski wonder-strike, but was followed up with a loss by the same scoreline to Waitakere City – who topped the group and were the beaten finalists. Later in the day, it took an extra-time goal from Lesley “Legga Legz” Kivolyn to break the deadlock in the Battle of the Kaimais quarter final against Tauranga City after Prince “Spotlight” Mabounda had given Melville an early lead.

Semi-final opponents Birkenhead United fielded no fewer than eight Chatham Cup winners in the Monday morning clash and proved too strong for Melville on their way to their fourth title in the last few years.

The tournament concludes the senior football programme with attention turning to 2019 and the challenge of the NRFL Premier League. Preseason is expected to kick off in mid-January and the league set to commence on March 30.

Melville United U19 squad: 1. Jamie Searle, 2. Callum Donlon, 3. Campbell Brown, 4. Josh Galletly, 5. Thomas Mouncher (c), 6. Nick Walters, 7. Ernest Pidoke, 8. Jasom Khatkar, 9. Prince Mabounda, 10. Levi Clark, 11. Lesley Kivolyn, 12. Joel McMullan, 13. Fin Conchie, 14. Ryen Lawrence, 15. Liam Steffert, 16. Aarum Lim, 17. Harry Rose, 18. Logan Wisnewski

Group Stage results (Saturday, 20 October):

Melville United 1 (Wisnewski)
Bay Olympic 0

Glenfield Rovers 1
Melville United 1 (Kivolyn)

Three Kings United 0
Melville United 1 (Mabounda)

Group Stage results (Sunday, 21 October):

Lower Hutt City 0
Melville United 1 (Wisnewski)

Melville United 0
Waitakere United 1

Quarterfinal result (Sunday, 21 October):

Tauranga City 1
Melville United 2 (Mabounda, Kivolyn)

Semi-final result (Monday, 22 October):

Melville United 0
Birkenhead United 3

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