North Coast footballers kicking goals at National Talent Challenge

Alice Webster (left) and Tahliya Sambrook (right) representing NSW Country at the National Talent Challenge.

NORTH Coast footballers Alice Webster and Tahliya Sambrook will be kicking goals for New South Wales Country at the National Talent Challenge (NTC) in Canberra this week.

The tournament offers girls under the age of eighteen the opportunity to showcase their talents in front of Football Australia and Australian national team selectors and is a path well-trodden by Matildas players.

North Coast’s Tahliya Sambrook was overwhelmed with emotion when she found out she made the team.

“When I heard the news that I had been selected for the under 18s NSW Regional team I was speechless and so happy,” she said.

“I felt like all my hard work had paid off, it was a massive confidence booster for me.”

It was a welcome surprise for Alice Webster who painstakingly missed out on the National Youth Championships two years in a row due to the pandemic.

“I was a bit surprised as I wasn’t aware of this event but I am very excited as the previous two years I have been selected for the National Youth Championships only for them to be cancelled due to COVID.

“It will be good to play against girls of my age from all over Australia,” said Alice.

Whilst the talented duo play the game they love, their journey has been one of dedication.

“The process to get to where I am has been huge,” said Tahliya.

“Many ups and downs, sacrifices and challenges that have made me grow as a person and mostly as a player.

“I started playing soccer at the age of eight for Northern Storm Football Club.

“I trialled for the SAP requisition competition, that led me to trial for National Premier League (at North Coast Football) then I was selected in the Talent Support Program.

“From there I made the NNSW State team for under 14s and played at the National Youth Championships in 2019 and the following year I trialled once and then unfortunately they were cancelled due to Covid.

“I am currently playing with the boys NPL squad in the Newcastle tournament which has helped me to grow stronger and adapt to diverse positions.”

Tahliya was also selected to represent the North Coast for the PSSA at the State titles which is where she first met Alice at the age of twelve.

Tahliya was recently selected for the Combined High Schools State Titles to represent North Coast in Bathurst where she will be reunited with her friend Alice who will be representing the Hunter Region.

Alice’s progression from the Orara Valley Dingoes to Newcastle has taken many twists and turns.

“I started playing for my local club Orara Valley Dingoes when I was eight years old,” she said.

“At the age of twelve I started the Skills Acquisition programme (SAP) with North Coast Football.

“The same year I was selected to represent North Coast in the Primary School Sports Association (PSSA) State titles.

“I continued in SAP until age fourteen, whilst still playing club football but this time with Northern Storm boys’ team.

“In the same year I represented North Coast in the State (SAP) championships and also Northern New South Wales in the National Youth Championships.

“At age fifteen and sixteen I played for North Coast Football in the boys NPL.

Alice’s development resulted in the difficult decision to up-sticks and pursue her dreams by accepting a position at the Newcastle Jets Academy.

“Last year at age sixteen, I trialled and was selected to participate in the inaugural Western Sydney Wanderers Future Wander Woman Programme – a 20-week programme requiring me to travel to Sydney each week,” she said.

“Towards the end of this programme I attended trials with the Newcastle Jets Academy and in January this year I accepted an offer to join them and I left my family and friends and moved to Newcastle and started at a new school.

“This year I have been playing for the Emerging Jets in the Sydney Women’s NPL.”

A common trait in those who represent their state is supportive parents, one which Tahliya is grateful for.

“My Mum and Dad (Jodie and Dylan Sambrook) are extremely proud of me and were just as excited as I was when they received the email,” she said.

“Then they realised the effort and had to work out the logistics of it all to make it work for training in Sydney and then a trip to Canberra.

“I feel very blessed and grateful to have them on this journey with me, the amount of sacrifices they have made for my brother and I are endless.”

Alice’s parents, Colin and Suzanne Webster, were thrilled after two disappointing years of cancellations due to COVID.

“We are happy that Alice has been selected to represent NSW Country in the NTC Challenge in Canberra as she was really looking forward to the Nationals which were unfortunately cancelled twice due to COVID.

“We believe Alice was nominated for the NSW Country Team by her coaches at NCF and the Newcastle Jets Academy, which is great,” said Suzanne.

Whilst the NTC in Canberra won’t make or break a football career, a good performance will give it a kick in the right direction.

“My goal from a very young age has always been to play for an A-League club and then hopefully play for Australia one day,” said Tahliya.

“Living regionally has given me doubts about my dream coming true but having such wonderful mentors like Alex Nolan and my coach Nathan Silvy has given me this opportunity to trial in Canberra and see where I am at against other girls in the State.”

Self-improvement is Alice’s focus.

“To keep developing my football skills as much as I can and make the most of any opportunities to develop me as a footballer,” concluded Alice.


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