Teen sensation Emmanuel Peters has treasured an unlikely reunion with coach Joe Haywood that has seen him star for a newly promoted North Shore Mariners side who have sent shock waves throughout the National Premier Leagues NSW top tier Men’s competition this season.
The 19-year-old linked up with North Shore ahead of their maiden campaign in the top flight this season after some time under Haywood in the Central Coast Mariners youth system and his boyhood club Mount Druitt Town Rangers.
The clinical midfielder has hit the ground running by finding the back of the net in both the Mariners’ opening day 1-1 draw with reigning Champions APIA Leichhardt and Sunday afternoon’s momentous 3-2 triumph over 2019 Premiers and National Champions Wollongong Wolves.
Peters has been a livewire in attack, earning himself back to back man of the match accolades and subsequent positions in the Rounds 1 and 2 Ultra Football Team of the Week.
The youngster revealed how this season North Shore were determined to silence the critics from the outset.
“After hearing all the rumours about how everyone was doubting us from the start all the boys got together and said ‘we have nothing to lose’,” Peters said.
“We are just going out game by game, playing with freedom, working hard and playing with heart.
“We know it’s a tougher challenge in NPL 1 compared to NPL 2 as everyone players better football and it poses a challenge week in week out no matter who we play.
“But if we keep performing the way we are, we know we can surprise teams. We have a very good balance, with a few older boys supporting us young players coming through.”
Peters may have only signed with North Shore a few months ago, but their manager Joe Haywood played a valuable role in the Mount Druitt junior’s development.
Peters was scouted from the Western Sydney club to sign with Central Coast back in 2017, where his coach in their National Youth League squad was none other than Haywood himself.
“I had Joe as my coach and under him I believed in myself more and my whole football changed,” Peters said.
“Then when he left I had some ups and downs with the new coaches which led to halfway through last year when I came back to Mount Druitt.”
At the time Peters was juggling his footballing dream with school commitments, and despite impressing in patches for the A-League academy side he decided to return home to Mount Druitt in mid-2019.
However that move failed to present the playing time he desired, leading to a rekindled relationship with Haywood at fresh pastures.
“I wasn’t getting time in NPL 1 with Mount Druitt so I spoke to Joe and after North Shore got promoted he told me if I came across I would get game time,” Peters said.
“It’s a fresh club for me and the boys all believed in me and were there for me from the start.
“I was really nervous when we had our first trial game against the Central Coast Mariners A-League team but going into it the boys told me to just do what I do best which really helped.
“Joe just told me to have fun and it turned out alright.”
Not many could have foreseen North Shore in the position they currently stand, but Peters believes the club have worthy foundations in place to ensure that their first two results are not simply a flash in the pan.
“I think we play really good football and most importantly we play with heart,” he reflected.
“We go to every game to just give 100% and leave everything on the field.
“Everything we do is not just for ourselves as players but for the badge and the club.
“Even if we are having a bad game we just make sure to do the defensive work, always running back and tracking players.
“We are all going in the right direction with Joe who has done so much for this club since NPL 4 days.
“I would say because we have nothing to lose the sky is the limit.”
Peters still has long term dreams of breaking into the professional game and is more than willing to put in the hard yards at NPL level with that in mind.
“My dream has always been to be a footballer so if that happens signing my first professional deal would be a dream come true,” he said.
“But at the same time the NPL 1 is a very high level and I just have to keep working harder and harder and not dream too big.”
North Shore Mariners will look to maintain their remarkable unbeaten run when they host Sydney FC at Lambert Park on Sunday.
– By Chris Curulli (Twitter handle @ChrisCurulli)