Teenage trio chosen to test skills against Brisbane Roar
FORMER Ipswich Grammar School student Joe Duckworth typifies the confident and ambitious approach of this year's Western Pride senior team players.
He's keen to learn, appreciates good coaching and welcomes every chance to show what he can do on a football field.
That's why being chosen in the National Premier League (Queensland) All Stars under-23 team to play Brisbane Roar's A-League side is such an exciting prospect.
"It's an awesome opportunity,'' said Duckworth, who completed his stint at Ipswich Grammar School in 2014 before studying Health and Sport at UQ this year.
"We're playing against people we watch on TV and at Suncorp (Stadium).
"To be playing on the same field as them will be a pretty special moment.''
Duckworth was named in the All-Stars squad along with Pride captain Jesse Rigby and substitute Harry Sawyer.
Rigby was selected to join Rigby in the midfield with Sawyer coming off the bench as a striker.
The 18-year-old trio were among Pride's most consistent performers during the recently completed state league season.
Duckworth played 21 matches, scoring three goals.
Rigby played in 20 games.
Sawyer scored seven goals from his 21 matches.
"I don't need to tell anyone how good those guys are,'' Duckworth said. "Jesse is our captain and Harry is one of the best young strikers in the league. They fully deserve their spot.
"It's awesome for the club as well. It's a good reflection on where we have come so far this year.''
Duckworth made his NPL debut this season. He's keen to return after what Pride achieved.
"We're not the wooden (spoon) boys anymore,'' he said. "Everyone was starting to respect us now.
"We caused quite a few upsets this year so we set ourselves a good platform to continue and move forward.
"I'm very happy with Pride.''
The Pride players have continued training in recent weeks under new coach Graham Harvey before having their first break since last November.
"He's been introducing his philosophy to our squad,'' Duckworth said. "It's been a good couple more weeks.''
Before continuing his study and having a short break from football, Duckworth welcomes playing against Roar.
"I can really enjoy this Saturday,'' the former IGS football captain said. "It will be an awesome experience.''
Saturday night's game is at the Queensland Sports and Athletics Centre at Nathan.
The 17-strong All-Stars squad also includes players from other NPL Queensland clubs.
Brisbane City, Northern Fury, Palm Beach SC and Pride contributed the most players.
The team will be guided by FNQ Heat coach Martin Docherty, who will be assisted by Palm Beach coach Grae Piddick.
Players earned selection to the squad via a public vote on the official NPL Queensland website over a three week period after being nominated for consideration by their respective coaches.
Positions in the starting line-up and substitutions bench were determined by the number of votes each player received in their nominated position.
The NPL Queensland Under 23 All-Stars v Brisbane Roar match is the curtain raiser to the NPL finals series elimination match between Moreton Bay United and Northern NSW club Edgeworth Eagles.
Meanwhile, the Football Queensland Board confirmed there will be no change to the number of NPL Queensland men's licenses for the next two seasons.
A board review determined the number of participating clubs will remain at 12, including regional franchise Western Pride, until the end of the 2017 season.
Brisbane Roar's youth team involved in the competition operates under a Memorandum of Understanding.
The decision was taken in the interest of competition stability and ensuring the continued development of existing NPL Queensland clubs' junior and senior programs.
Decisions about any future expansion are expected before the 2018 season.