Academy teams targeting double Top Four Cup success

The PGFC Academy Under-18 and Under-20 teams both face huge games at E&D Litis Stadium on Saturday as they take on Perth SC and Cockburn City respectively in the NPL WA Top Four Cup (U-18s at 10.00am, U-20s at 12.30pm).

Each of them head into the end-of-season competition as league champions and in the case of the Under-20s, having also retained the Belt Up State League Reserves Cup.

But while Academy Technical Director Steven McGarry is pleased to see the youngsters securing silverware, it is their development as players within the Academy program that remains the priority.

"There has been a massive progression throughout the year for the whole senior Academy group," he said.

"The program that we have in place has put the players in an excellent position in regards to training four times a week on-field, their individualised athletic development programs  and access to video analysis via the facilities that we have here at the club.

"And we will continue to look to raise the bar and strive to lead the way in terms of junior development nationwide.

"People have talked about both teams winning championships and only losing one game each all year as success, but for us as a club, how we define success is in how players have progressed.

"We've had kids from the Under-15s play for the Under-18s, Under-18 players who have been doing really well for the Under-20s and lads from both the 18s and the 20s who have appeared regularly for the NPL First Team.

"We've got a great bunch of kids who have really embraced every challenge that they've faced."

McGarry went on to further emphasise the fluidity that exists within the Academy structure in terms of age groups and levels.

"We don't label a 14 or 15-year-old as being of a certain age group," he said.

"A prime example is Joshua Rawlins. He played in the National Youth Championships last year, went away to Europe with the Under-16s squad, came back and really excelled in training and in games and was then exposed to the first-team environment.

"That is the benefit of having Richard Garcia and Terry McFlynn, plus the other top-level coaches and excellent support staff who all understand where the kids are at in terms of their development.

"We can help guide and mentor them and to be fair, the players have excelled in embracing all the challenges that have been put in front of them."

In terms of Saturday's Top Four Cup games, meanwhile, McGarry is expecting both sides to face stern tests.

"Now the boys need to forget the league and embrace another challenge," he said.

"This will stand them in really good stead for what lies ahead for them in their football journeys.

"When they come and play for the NPL First Team or the Foxtel Youth League team against some of the best players in the country in their age-group, or as the likes of Josh [Rawlins], Ethan Brooks, Luke Bodnar and Gabriel Popovic have done, sample the [Hyundai A-League] first-team environment, they'll be used to the pressure those experiences bring."

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