Two former Sunbury United juniors have been selected for one of the top soccer programs in the country.
Holly Murray and Maxine DiBlasi have been named in the National Training Centre program, which is a key pillar in the Football Federation Australia development model.
The comprehensive program, which includes local and tournament matches, aims to prepare players to progress through the ranks.
Murray joins the program after being called in to help her age group’s NTC side at the national titles last year.
“I was playing at my club [South Melbourne] and they asked me to try out for nationals,” she said. “We finished third and I got to captain one of the games. I was really surprised. I had never played with those players before.”
Murray said her experience early this year in representing the NTC program had helped when she was asked to trial for a program place.
She started playing soccer with Sunbury United, after having had to watch her brother play. She said that time set her up for what was to come.
“I was the only girl in my team and had to play against the boys at Sunbury,” she said. “That really helped me become the player I am now.”
As well as playing at the national titles again, the 14-year-old will play for the NTC in the under-19 National Premier League.
Murray’s former South Melbourne club mate, Maxine DiBlasi, will participate in a younger age group in the NTC program.
Like Murray, she started her soccer at Sunbury United before moving into other programs to develop her skills.
“I played with the boys at Sunbury and then kept going to different clubs and moved up the ranks,” DiBlasi said.
The 13-year-old, who plays mostly as a striker, said being part of the NTC program was a wonderful opportunity.
“I’m excited to make the team,” she said. “At the trials, I didn’t do as good as I would have liked. Before the last trial, I told myself I needed to push myself and it paid off.”
Like Murray, she’ll play at the national titles and play for the NTC in the NPL.
Both girls dream of playing for the Matildas in the future.
Sunbury United Sporing Club president Paul DiBlasi, Maxine’s father, said it was fantastic for the club to see two former players doing so well.
“I was junior president of the club at the time [the girls were at the club] and implemented some good coaching for both the boys and girls,” he said.
“To see these two girls progress so far – we would like to think this might encourage more female participation at the club. We’ve had a full senior team for the last 10 years and are currently preparing to have an under-18 team next year and a lot of girls throughout our junior teams.”