Phoenix academy paying dividends

Good news keeps coming for New Zealand's future footballers with the Wellington Phoenix looking to double their academy intake in 2013.

Good news keeps coming for New Zealand's future professional players with the Wellington Phoenix looking to double the intake to their academy in 2013 from eight to 16 players.

An assessment process would be undertaken and head coach Ricki Herbert was hopeful some finality could be achieved by April to increase the intake.

A wide net would be cast involving the club's coaching staff and national youth coaches with the aim of building a strong national base in players of a type that the Phoenix were looking for while also providing benefits for New Zealand's international team development.

Herbert said the benefits of the academy to the club were obvious in the six months since it was set up and Louis Fenton and Tyler Boyd were two who had quickly made their mark once given an opportunity.

Plans to also extend the academy approach around the regions of New Zealand to a slightly lower age group would also strengthen the concept, especially as perceived deficiencies in some areas could be worked on at a younger age.

Herbert wasn't prepared to say what those deficiencies were but said working them out of the system with younger players meant a smoother transition and better equipped players as they emerged in more senior ranks.

"It's always a work in progress," he said of developing skills across a wider base.

"It (the academy) is incredibly encouraging. In my time there were no academies or pathways, you just got out there and did your thing, but these guys are trailblazers and they have been really impressive in response to the opportunities they have been given.

"They (Fenton and Boyd) are an absolute delight to coach and they've both got starts this weekend."

For all the lack of opportunity among New Zealand players in the past, Herbert said the qualities of those who came through were comparable with those he had seen around Australian clubs.

Those who do join the academy are also not cocooned from reality as is the case in some sports codes.

"They have a lot of activities around the club and duties away from the game. They do community work and junior coaching scheme. It's much more holistically oriented and there is work in what may happen to them when their careers are over," he said.

In the meantime, there is the A-League to worry about and his Paul Ifill-less side take on the competition leaders the Central Coast Mariners on Saturday, a team Herbert said the Phoenix had given some 'decent games at home' in recent times.

"The younger boys are getting a run so that will be something interesting to look at," he said.