Highlands footballers will have the opportunity to play against some of the best youth players in the state with Highlands FC being accepted into the NSW Association Youth League [AYL].
The Highlands Soccer Association [HSA] revealed their team, who have previously played in the Youth South Coast league, will enter the boys competition in 2022 across the Under 13, 14, 15 and 16 age groups.
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HSA Manager Michael Hamilton said it was a boost for the region after years of trying to provide a development pathway.
"We've put applications in previously but have been knocked back," he revealed to the Southern Highland News.
"Obviously the Association Youth League is a step up from community grassroots football and provides a pathway for the kids and gives them a chance to test their skills against teams from other large associations like Blacktown, Manly and Sutherland.
"It's a great opportunity, it's exciting."
Hamilton said the Association was hopeful of retaining talent that would otherwise be lost to Illawarra and Sydney competitions.
"It's positive for regional football that we have a chance to enter," he said.
"We're always looking for development opportunities for our players and previously we've had teams in the Football South Coast competition but that's still a community league whereas this is a step-up against association teams predominately within metropolitan Sydney.
"We want to grow the game and provide opportunities for our local Highlands players. Hopefully we can bring some of those players back who have had to go further afield to find opportunities.
"It gives younger kids something to strive towards, hopefully local clubs see it as a reflection of something they've done by getting players who come through their junior ranks into these youth league teams.
"With games on Sundays it also gives us the opportunity to involve players who may have ISA commitments with Chevalier or Oxley and really tap into that talent."
The AYL will consist of 27 rounds with 15 of those to be home games at David Woods Playing Fields in Bowral.
Highlands FC will face Blacktown SFA, Hills Football Inc., MacArthur FA, Manly Warringah FA, Nepean FA, North West Sydney Football, Southern Branch Inc., Southern Districts SFA and Sutherland Shire FA.
Trial dates will be announced shortly.
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