Melville’s Wisnewski to lead NZ Futsal U-18s

Melville’s Logan Wisnewski, 16, will captain the New Zealand U-18 futsal team on match day one of the OFC Youth Futsal Tournament in Auckland on Wednesday.

And younger sister Grace – also a Melville youth product – will make her U-18 international futsal debut on the same day, giving a real Wisnewski flavour to the tournament.

Logan made a goalscoring first team debut for Melville United in the 5-0 home win over Ellerslie in the Northern League First Division earlier this year – and would have had more of an impact had it not been for an ankle injury picked up during a schoolboy’s match that cut his club season short.

“It’s a huge honour,” Logan said of his captaincy appointment. “Representing your country is one thing but to be able to lead your country is another thing entirely.”

The futsal “veteran” steps into the national set up after a breakout season with WaiBOP Futsal in New Zealand’s Futsal National League last year. He finished as the side’s second top scorer with 11 goals, helping to fire WaiBOP into the final.

“The national league experience was good because it was a completely new thing for me. It was awesome to play alongside mates from WaiBOP,” he said.

“The intensity is a lot higher here [in the New Zealand camp]. All players are fighting for starting positions and it’s good to have a high intensity training.”

At the conclusion of the tournament Wisnewski will link back up with the Melville United squad preparing for the annual U-19 tournament hosted by Napier City Rovers over Labour Weekend.

Melville first team co-coach Sam Wilkinson said Futsal was a growing sport.

“To gain National representative honours is a fantastic achievement for Logan,” he said.

“To come back from a serious injury so quickly shows great mental strength and focus.

“Logan is a player with a big future in the game and the experience of leading his country will only add to his development.”

Joining Logan in national team colours is younger sister Grace, now with Wanderers Sports Club’s northern league team, with the pair poised to achieve a unique double at the inaugural youth futsal competition.

While the Oceania region has had its fair share of famous family connections within or across different national teams, the Wisnewski siblings are set to debut for different age-group national teams on the same day.

Their respective New Zealand U-18 futsal sides each open their quest to qualify for the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games against their Tongan counterparts and somewhat fittingly, Logan – who turns 17 next month – will be first to pull on the shirt.

The elder of the pair, Logan was the first to take to the court over a decade ago.

“I stared playing when I was five at a holiday programme. I saw a newsletter for it and decided to go along and started to love it from there,” he said.

“I picked it up after Logan as he’s a few years older than me,” said 15-year-old Grace.

“I saw he was enjoying it and thought why not?”

Both have mixed futsal and football in almost equal measure as part of their round ball diet but neither could be pressed to single out a preferred option.

“Both are pretty similar but have their differences. I enjoy them both equally and I can’t pick one as my favourite,” said Grace.

“I like playing them both and enjoy the differences between them,” echoed Logan.

“You can use the traits from one in the other so it’s great in that way.”

Despite the OFC Youth Futsal Tournament being the first of its kind in the region, the age-group event won’t be entirely new territory for Grace.

She represented New Zealand in the 11-a-side format as part of their successful OFC U-16 Women’s Championship campaign in Samoa two months ago, netting six goals in five games including a hat trick against Tahiti.

As one of three players backing up from that event, Grace’s experience will likely be drawn upon during the event as the team head into the unknown with New Zealand’s first foray into age-group international futsal.

Grace Wisnewski in action for Melville boys U13s in 2015

Like most siblings, the Wisnewski’s are very competitive and supportive, traits which should come to the fore during the week.

“We give each other constructive criticism. We’re very competitive at home which creates a good atmosphere,” said Logan.

“We share a bit of banter and we can each take a joke.

“We’re both here so we can share advice to help each other out.”

There may yet be a twist to that relationship this week, brought about by a quirk of the qualification rules.

The winners of the men’s and women’s tournaments – except for New Caledonia who are not an Olympic nation – will qualify for the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games.

However, the two qualifying teams cannot be from the same member association so where a country has entered both the men’s and women’s events, the member association must nominate their preferred qualification team.

Should it come down to that for the New Zealand teams, Grace admits there would be mixed emotions.

“It’s definitely competitive between us. We want each other to do well and to go for it. Each of us would love for the other to go but only one of us can [if we both win].

New Zealand U-18 men begin their campaign against Tonga U-18 at 10am at Bruce Pulman Arena in Auckland while New Zealand U-18 women begin at 11:30am also against Tonga.

– Seamus Marten, additional reporting OFC Media

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