Football academy set up in Marlborough

Marlborough Football’s youth development programme has taken a decisive step forward this season with the formation of the 2021 Marlborough Football Academy [MFA].

Previously, promising young players were included in the Tasman United Academy, which ran beside Marlborough’s separate representative programme. Now, both academy and rep programmes will be combined under the MFA banner.

With Tasman United dropping out of the National League this season, their academy has been discontinued. Along with Marlborough, Nelson-based clubs Nelson FC and Nelson Suburbs have also set up their own academies, all firmly under the Mainland Football umbrella.

MFA members will be chosen following a series of trials, set to be staged in March and April.

The MFA will cover the age groups of boys’ 12


, 13


, 14


and 15


grade teams, with squads of between 13-16 players in each age bracket. These teams will form the Marlborough rep sides to participate in Tier 1 South Island tournaments during October each year.

With lower numbers in the girls grades at this stage the MFA will run combined age squads to match the tournament age groups of 11




Grade, 13




Grade and 15





There will no longer be separate Marlborough rep teams for each age group.

The Marlborough Academy will utilise the expertise of eight


coaches, all with previous representative team experience, under the guidance of head coach Scott Kennovin.

The boys’ coaches are: 12 grade – Ian Bridgen; 13


grade - Harry Pine; 14


grade – Scott Kennovin, Zeb Foote and Blair Speedy; 15


grade – Pere Hawes and Scott Kennovin. The girls’ coaches


Nicky Smith-Scott and Andrea Smith-Scott, with more girls coaches to be confirmed.

Weekly trainings will be held, along with strength and conditioning sessions, game days against other Nelson academies and entry into the


Island tournaments in October.

Scott said he was looking forward to working with more specific age groups.

"Having defined age groups will be more beneficial to making the Academy a better all-round experience for the players", he added.

“We will also try and build our own identity [as a footballing region] … with teams playing in a certain way. If we do that it will create a consistent message through the various age groups, but it’s not going to happen overnight.”

Marlborough Football general manager Andrea Smith-Scott is excited by the on-going possibilities created by the new set-up.

“This brings us into line with future NZ Football plans for regional academies/tournaments as a pathway for the talented players,” she said.

“It also opens up more opportunities for tournaments for the everyday player and community footballers, who have normally missed out on tournaments in the past due to not being a “rep player”.

“If 2020 has taught us anything, it is that we live in a smaller town where opportunities for all players need to be offered, instead of just the few that have trialed for rep teams.

“In the past the Tasman United Academy has been a set-up of two age groups with a mix of ages in each group that has not been ideal for trainings or game days when it comes to competing against other provinces.

“By merging our programmes, our new academy will have teams of each age grade and will allow us to have meaningful games against the FC Nelson and Nelson Suburbs academies … and will also be on the same pathway for selection to the Christchurch Regional Talent Camps.”

Andrea says the new system will provide chances for a wider range of players to participate in tournaments.

“By removing the old rep programme but still offering an environment for competitive football to those that want it through our academy, it also opens up the opportunity for clubs to send teams away to South Island Tournaments that now have multiple tournaments of each age group with Tier 1 and Tier 2 abilities … giving so many more kids the chance to have a go at tournament football.

“The cost has been kept at a minimum and is cheaper than what it has cost per head in the past for rep players. We will be doing fundraising and applying for funding to help cover some extra expenses for tournaments.”

MFA trials dates

Boys trials: Sunday March 14 and March 21

Boys 12th grade (born 2009) 9am-10.30am; boys 13th grade (born 2008) 10.45am-12.15pm; boys 14th grade (born 2007) 12.45pm-2.15pm; boys 15th grade (born 2006); 2.30pm-4pm

Girls trials: Sunday April 11 and April 18

Girls 12th grade (born 2009) 9.30am-10.30am; girls 13th-14th grade (born 2008-2007) 11am-12pm; girls 15


-17th grade (born 20006-2004) 1pm-2pm.

Register for trials by emailing


with players full name, club and date of birth.