Western Sydney Wanderers defender Michael Thwaite believes a large number of regional youth footballers are being lost to the game.
Thwaite hails from Cairns in northern Queensland, a region that has produced the likes of Frank Farina and Steve Corica over the years.
But the 34-year-old believes many young players are not getting the chance to progress in the sport.
He cites the expense of playing the game, and the difficulty of regional youth to depart their home towns as two key factors but he has already put in place plans to make a difference in the region when he retires.
“I grew up there since I was two years old, and if I didn’t move to Sydney down south and go to university and start playing here in Sydney I probably would’ve remained a high school teacher in Cairns,” Thwaite told Foxsports.com.au.
“The regional areas do suffer even more so because the lack of coaching, the lack of teams there. I guess one benefit is the NPL competitions help those competitions a lot.”
“It’s costing the children a lot of money they’re paying between 2 and 3 thousand dollars from under 12s. For me to pay that as a youngster I wouldn’t have been able to play – and that’s one thing I do want to change when I go back.”
Thwaite is proud of his Cairns roots and plans to open coaching schools when he retires from the game.
“I want to go to those rural areas that gave me so much even west of Cairns and even further all the way up Queensland and give them that opportunity where they can get high quality coaching without having to pay anything,” he said.
“I’ve actually started up a mentoring company called That’s Football and that will be my aim to help with that transition into professional sport.”