Nathan Tidmarsh, 18, Nik Popovich, 17, Jakob Cole, 18, Joshua Gaspari, 17, Sam Ossato, 18 and Jordan Tsekenis, 16, have been picked in the Australian schoolboys soccer team.. Photo: Melissa Adams
Here's proof the future is bright for men's soccer in Canberra.
The ACT dominated the Australian Schoolboys team with six players selected, despite being snubbed for inclusion in the A-League and not having a side in the National Youth Competition.
Centre-back Nathan Tidmarsh, midfielders Nik Popovich and Joshua Gaspari, central defender Sam Ossato, centre-forward Jordan Tsekenis and goalkeeper Jakob Cole were rewarded with green and gold jerseys, while five others are shadow players.
That's an entire starting XI from the ACT potentially making up the Australian team for a tour of England and Wales later in the year.
ACT schoolboys coach Njegosh Popovic, also a co-coach of the Monaro Panthers in the Canberra National Premier League, believed the strong representation underlined the immense quality in the region.
''It proves the ACT has come a long way in terms of development,'' Popovic said.
''I definitely think there is a pool the A-League clubs can benefit from taking from, but the reality is we need to be looking down the future.
''The first step is to create our development program and the next step is having an A-League youth team.
''That will show we don't need to buy players and we can draw on local players when we put an application in [for the A-League].''
Last week's national schoolboys title was the first time the ACT had taken out the tournament since 2001.
On that occasion they were boosted by players from the AIS, whereas the current version is made up entirely of local talent.
The Youth United program - funded from the left-over money from the failed A-League for Canberra bid - is already bearing fruit, beating an under-20s Newcastle Jets outfit 3-0 in its inaugural match in July.
And while reigning Premiers Plate holders the Western Sydney Wanderers are early in their pre-season, the fact a Canberra Olympic invitational team was level for 80 minutes before going down 3-1 on Wednesday night showed the gap is closing to the elite level.
Crucial to the rise has been a hotly contested Canberra NPL, with only four points separating the top three teams - Canberra FC, Olympic and Belconnen United - with three rounds remaining.
''In the past there would have been a two-tiered competition, where you had your major four sides and everyone else below that,'' Popovic said. ''But it's fantastic to see clubs like Woden in the top four at the moment.''
Olympic takes on Canberra FC at Deakin Stadium, while in Sunday's other games, Belconnen hosts Monaro and Woden Valley faces Tuggeranong United. Canberra City plays Cooma in Saturday's only fixture.