AIS Mens football assistant coach Ufuk Talay during a training session at the AIS. Photo: Jeffrey Chan
AIS assistant coach Ufuk Talay wants the country's brightest young prospects to develop a hard-nosed edge as part of their introduction to the Canberra National Premier League.
The AIS could not have asked for a tougher assignment in its first game in the competition when it travels to Deakin Stadium to face unbeaten Canberra FC on Sunday.
The talented squad of Australia's elite players born in 1996 and 1997 is ineligible for finals, but can have an impact on the premiership and the make-up of the top four by taking points off its rivals.
While the main goal of playing in the Canberra NPL is to expose the youngsters to the rigours of senior football, Talay said the positive influence of victories could not be underestimated.
''We want to instil that winning mentality as well,'' Talay said.
''I reckon they will be competitive.
''We are about development, but the next phase is developing winners as well.''
The majority of players in the AIS program are also involved in the Australian under-17 Joeys squad.
A host of recent graduates, such as Mustafa Amini, now at German powerhouse Borussia Dortmund, and Melbourne Heart striker Eli Babalj have secured professional contracts here and abroad.
The AIS endured a mixed campaign in the National Youth League and it is hoped its experience in the Canberra NPL will prepare the players for higher honours.
''Our program is about developing players and we want year-round football, so we thought it was a good opportunity to join the league and get the boys game time,'' Talay said.
''It's a good way for them to develop and know when to go into the physical battles and when not to.
''If they do play against physical sides, there's other ways they have to work around it and be smart about it and get away from that physical battle.''
Left-sided central defender George Timotheou is the sole Canberra representative in the AIS program.
The AIS will face a brutal initiation to senior football against a red-hot Canberra FC side which has scored 23 goals and conceded just one in their four games this season, including last week's 9-0 thumping of Woden Valley.
Canberra Olympic will be expected to maintain its unbeaten start when it hosts Woden, while Belconnen United entertains Canberra City in Sunday's other game.
The Cooma Tigers will be hoping to build from their mid-week Waratah Cup success when they take on Tuggeranong United at Kambah on Saturday.