Melbourne Victory will return to the Border this weekend with its top academy coaches to run a two-day program in Wodonga.
Set to feature up to 60 talented players between the ages of nine and 13, the Albury-Wodonga pre-academy program will be run by full-time Victory Academy staff Drew Sherman, Gareth Naven, Grant Brebner, Jake Moyle and new under-13-under-16s coach Martin Bullock.
Bullock has worked in youth development across various roles for a number of years after a long and distinguished career overseas in the English Premier League and joins Victory's Academy program from Brisbane Roar where he held a similar position.
The aim is to provide talented players in regional Victoria with a taste of the Victory Academy coaching program, including training sessions and workshops on Saturday and Sunday to identify prospective players from the Albury-Wodonga region that could enter the academy setup.
It will also strengthen Victory's ties within the region, in particular the relationship with Murray United, that has grown and fostered a strong talent identification process.
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"The relationship between Murray United Football Club and Melbourne Victory is vital for our regions aspiring players and coaches," Murray United technical director Adam Carty said.
"The relationship created a straight line between National Premier League (NPL) and the Hyundai A- League and presents players with identified potential to regularly been seen in the region by the country's foremost youth coaches.
"Historically, players have needed to progress through a series of regional representative sides before being considered eligible as an identified talent.
"Now, however, with the strengthening of the relationship between clubs, it means players' progress, growth and development is regularly discussed and monitored to help them reach their potential.
"Beyond the establishment of an NPL side, this is the best thing that has happened for youth football in our region."
The program has been a success with Victory signing Murray United juniors Linus Bourke and Ryan into academy teams next season.
Sherman, Victory's technical academy general manager, said the program is an important aspect of discovering future talent like Bourke and Kemp and giving them the opportunity to take the next step in their professional development pathway.
"It is our responsibility as a professional club to provide the scope for talented young players in Victoria to access elite coaching and development opportunities," Sherman said.
"The newly-launched academy program is one of the most important strategic elements for our club.
"Our success lies in the calibre of players we are able to recruit and develop, and therefore it's of paramount importance to us to know prospective talent in regional areas.
"We also need to provide guidance and support that will allow the local clubs to deliver environments conducive to developing players and preparing them for the elite level.
"We are extremely proud of our work in Albury-Wodonga and our relationship with Murray United, and we hope that the signings of Ryan and Linus into the Academy will be the first of many talented players from the area pulling on the shirt of Melbourne Victory."
Melbourne Victory Academy (under-13 to under-21) is completely free of charge from next season, making it the first professional club in Victoria to offer this.