• Rovers teenage defender relishes step up

Rovers teenage defender relishes step up

It's no secret Napier City Rovers Central League football team's starting XI is good enough to compete with the best sides in the competition.

If Thirsty Whale Napier City Rovers are to crack a top three berth and secure a spot in the new-look national championship next summer it's crucial the young substitutes provide quality impact off the pine. It's fair to suggest 17-year-old defender Isaac Belcher (pictured above) is doing enough to give Rovers supporters plenty of confidence.

However what he does against second placed Wellington Olympic in Saturday's round five clash in the capital will provide a more accurate gauge than his previous two outings in the league. Belcher's football CV suggests he was destined to shine at this level.

The Hastings Boys' High School Year 13 student has been a member of his school's 1st XI since his Year 9 days. Belcher represented Samoa at the Oceania qualifying tournament for the 2017 Under-17 World Cup and he has also represented New Zealand Secondary Schools.

"I've always been a big boy which is why I cracked the school's 1st XI early. As I got bigger that's when I decided to try and make it as a defender. Back in my younger days I was a centre-mid and striker ... more of an attacker," Belcher explained.

A product of the Havelock North Wanderers club who made the switch to Rovers this year, Belcher, is enjoying the step up.

"The intensity levels are definitely up but I'm finding them good," Belcher said.

While he aims to play professionally in the future he intends to study business or commerce at university next year so he is sorted for life after football. It's obvious Belcher is just as organised off the pitch as he is on it.  

Rovers head coach and centre back Bill Robertson is delighted with the progress Belcher is making and said he has made the most of his minutes during the last two games.

Robertson pointed out his third placed troops will have a tough away assignment at Wakefield Park on Saturday.

"Five of the 10 teams in the league have an artificial turf and this is a game we look forward to. We have to adapt to this surface," Robertson explained.

His team will continue to play their attacking style of football which has worked for them to date and he said if they continue to improve and create chances they will have a chance of an upset.

The full Napier City Rovers squad for Saturday's 2.30pm match is:
Oscar Mason (GK), Liam Schofield, Luca Barclay, Isaac Belcher, Tai Barham, Sam Wall, Cam Emerson, Zac Madsen, Kailan Gould, Ethan Ladd, Josh Stevenson, Jim Hoyle (captain), Fergus Neil, Luke Minshull, Bill Robertson, Ben Wade, Reon Werahiko (GK).