A SWITCH from field player to goalkeeper has reaped dividends for Wonthaggi 12-year-old Blake Cornelis, after he was selected in the Under 13s Skilleroos soccer program recently.
The talented player started with Wonthaggi United at the age of six and quickly developed into a key player under coaches Adrian and Dietmar Ehmke.
This year he played with the Gippsland FC Under 13 side and was thrilled to be named in the Skilleroos squad – the best 31 Under 13 soccer players in Victoria.
The Wonthaggi Secondary College student will train three times per week in Melbourne and play matches on Sundays in the Victorian National Premier League.
Blake said it was a big surprise to be chosen in the talented squad.
“I’d been trialling for it for a few years and to finally hear that I’d made it was a pretty big relief,” he said.
“There was always that doubt that I wouldn’t make it because of my age, because that’s what set me back the last few years.”
Blake started as a midfielder for Wonthaggi United and later put his hand up to be goalkeeper when no one else wanted to.
The move to defence paid off when he began playing for Gippsland FC, according to coach Taner Tekin.
“I picked Blake as an on-field player at the time because he trialled as an on-field player,” he said.
“Then I said ‘look I’ve dropped my other goalkeeper, I’ve heard you’re pretty handy as a goalkeeper’. He said ‘Yeah I’ll play in goals if that’s what it takes to get in the team.’”
Blake excelled as a goalkeeper for Gippsland and was eventually chosen in the Skilleroos as a goalie.
“To get in the Skilleroos is possibly the hardest thing to do at his age,” Tekin said.
“The kids nearly six foot and he’s going to be a big boy when he grows up. But credit to him, he puts heart into it and works hard.”
Skill Acquisition Program
The Football Federation Australia Skill Acquisition Program (SAP) was a stepping stone to the higher level for Blake.
The program picks talented young players and is a pathway to better soccer through skill training.
South Gippsland SAP coach Paul Plenkovich said Blake proves the program works as a pathway to the higher level.
“Blake started early in our program as a nine-year-old,” Plenkovich said.
“He’s playing keeper now but he stood out as a field player as well, because of his natural ability and physical presence.
“From us he moved on to a better team, better coaching and better competition. It’s good to see kids making it from a small area like this.”
Exciting times ahead
Although the training and match days in Melbourne are a huge commitment for a 12-year-old, Blake wouldn’t have it any other way.
“You can play sports like golf and stuff which aren’t really a team sport, but you don’t really get that social effect you get in team sport,” he said.
“You get to train and improve, but as you’re doing that you’re bonding with people.”
He also paid tribute to his parents, Paul and Nikki, who have continually supported him by driving him to trainings and matches.
“They’ve done very well, I love them to bits and I’d like to thank them very much,” he said.
“It’s about four hours out of their day three times a week and even more on weekends so they’ve done very well for me.”