Former Cambridge player selected for national U-17 squad
Former Cambridge FC youth player Dylan Gardiner has been selected for the national squad going to January's OFC U-17 Championship in Fiji.
Defender Gardiner (16) played two seasons for Cambridge in the WaiBOP Federation Youth leagues as part of his development.
He has since played for Hamilton Wanderers’ federation youth teams and made his first team debut in July 2022.
Gardiner has been part of the Ricki Herbert Football Academy since 2015 when he began attending coaching sessions in Taupo.
Kale Herbert, who has coached Gardiner at academy, school and club level, is delighted with his selection for the New Zealand squad.
“He’s worked so hard for this, and it’s well-deserved,” Herbert says. “He’s humble and very grounded so I’m sure he’ll handle the step to the next level.”
Gardiner recognises the part RHFA has played in his development, saying: “The academy has shaped me into the player I am today and I’m very grateful for the opportunities that the academy has given me to succeed.”
Supported by parents Sonia and Richard, Dylan Gardiner has made the most of his development through the academy, attending national camps and travelling with overseas tours.
After his start in Taupo, he spent two seasons playing for Cambridge FC’s federation youth teams in the WaiBOP Federation competitions, coached by Kale Herbert as part of a partnership agreement with the academy.
He then played two seasons with the Hamilton Wanderers’ youth team, again overseen by the academy and coached by Herbert and Joe Hinds.
Kale Herbert also coached Gardiner at St Paul’s Collegiate, Hamilton.
While Herbert has worked with Gardiner at academy, club and school, he says he’s benefitted from working with other academy coaches, all of whom add their own voice and support to a player’s development. These include Hinds and Bradley Rea who have also been involved at club level.
“It’s all part of helping a player learn to adapt to different environments and Dylan’s selection (for New Zealand) is very satisfying for everyone who has been involved,” Herbert says.
Herbert says Gardiner was part of an intake of players born in 2005 and 2006 who have collectively shown much promise as they approach their transition to senior football.
“And we’ve got a crop of players born in 2007 and 2008 who are coming through now, and it’s exciting to see so many promising players among them.”
OFC U-17 Championship
Ten Oceania nations will contest the OFC U-17 Championship with the two finalists gaining automatic qualification to the FIFA U-17 World Cup to be staged next year in Peru.
New Zealand are drawn against New Caledonia and American Samoa in their group games.