Thursday, May 19, 2011

Craig Foster Pictures

Here is the Handsome devil Craig, doing what he does best, riding bikes.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Craig Foster Back in Business

The tell-tale signs are there. Eyes constantly darting sideways, a foot tapping up and down, hands fidgeting with a piece of paper.

Craig Foster is a hyperactive individual at the best of times. But not having kicked a ball for four months, he is virtually jumping out of his skin.

Which is good news for the Northern Spirit, who tomorrow night hope to hand a debut to the Socceroo midfielder against Newcastle United at Gosford. After four months of inactivity and over four weeks of wrangling with his former club, Crystal Palace, Foster is finally expected make his return to the national league at NorthPower Stadium.

Keep an eye on the first 50-50. Foster may well take the ball, the man, and the grass so eager is he to let off steam.

"It's been frustrating, there's no doubt about that," he said.

"I thought I would be back playing a few weeks ago but it hasn't worked out like that. Obviously I'm not match fit, and I'll probably feel it in the last 15 or 20 minutes. But I'm ready to give it a go."

Foster, 31, could well be the most important signing Spirit coach Graham Arnold has made in his two seasons with the club.

Craig's talent is one thing strong in the tackle, good distribution, plenty of stamina, and an eye for goal. His leadership qualities are another Foster talks from the first minute to the last, and on-field communication is something the Spirit have patently lacked in recent seasons.

But it is his attitude which will set him apart, and benefit the Spirit the most.

"I'm not a 31-year-old who is coming home with nothing to play for," Foster said.

"I'm a 31-year-old who is coming home to maintain the same standards I have always set myself, to make sure I give myself every chance of a second World Cup campaign."

Significantly, Craig Foster consulted national coach Frank Farina before making the decision to leave England where he played for Portsmouth and Crystal Palace and return to the NSL after a three-year absence. In an era when the Socceroos are almost exclusively picked from overseas, Foster wanted to make sure he was not closing the door on his international career.

Farina assured him good form for the Spirit would keep him in the frame. The fact that Arnold doubles as assistant coach to the national team should also ensure Foster stays in the shop window. The rest is up to him.

The indications are promising. Fully recovered from a knee injury which hampered his final season and cost him a renewal of his work permit at Selhurst Park, Foster has been training the house down preparing for his return to the field. His new teammates are still talking about a goal scored in a recent practice game, and while the Spirit have enjoyed a strong start to the season, Foster's inclusion tomorrow night will add an important new dimension.

This, after all, is a player who injury apart has been a regular member of the national team for the past four years, a player who has not looked out of place interchanging passes with Harry Kewell, Mark Viduka, Ned Zelic, Paul Okon or any of our other hyped-up stars.

Foster insists he will not drop his guard now he has returned to the NSL, and there is no reason to disbelieve him. Certainly when you appreciate how hard he worked to win the first of his 29 caps, then you accept how much playing for his country means to him. A player who made his international debut at the age of 27 is not going to relinquish his green-and-gold jersey without a fight.

Indeed, as much as he is excited about making his Spirit debut in Gosford tomorrow, he is also disappointed that he missed the plane to Glasgow, where the Socceroos will play Scotland next week. The delay in getting his clearance from Crystal Palace which should arrive today cost him any hope of a call-up, and he aims to make up for lost time.

* In tonight's only national league match, Adelaide City will again be without experienced attackers Aurelio Vidmar and Claudio Pelosi for the trip across the Tasman to play the Auckland Kingz.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Modest Foster sinks Petone

Match-winning Upper Hutt rugby first five-eighth Craig Foster doesn't need to attend a modesty finishing school - he's a natural at being humble.

The 22-year-old proved that last night at the Hutt Recreation Ground after guiding his side to a vital 22-15 Lion Brown Trophy comeback win over one of the competition big guns, Petone.

Foster landed three vital shots at goal, and it was from two of his tactical kicks that tries resulted as his side fought back from 12-0 down to hand Petone its second straight top-eight competition loss and leave it in danger of missing out on the top four.

But was Foster beating his chest afterwards? Not on your life.

"I can't do my job without the forwards doing their job," he said.

"We've got a strong forward pack and they just took control. That was it. The forwards won it tonight."

Northern United's forwards were completely out-gunned by Marist St Pats in last night's curtain-raiser, but somehow Norths emerged with an upset 20-17 win. Put it down to Norths' tremendous defence and commitment.

Consistency is what coach Scott Crichton is after now because last night's win followed Saturday's 41-18 hiding from Upper Hutt.

"It's just the inexperience of playing at this level," Crichton said.

"But it's coming together bit by bit."

Norths 20 MSP 17

At the Hutt Rec: Norths 20 (Cassidy Godinet, Junior Maligi tries; Glynn Ford 2pen, 2con) Marist St Pats 17 (Kas Lealamanua, Lome Fa'atau tries; James McHardy 2con, pen). HT: 10-3. Referee: Tim Fox.

What happened: Norths upset all predictions to win, doing so with little ball, having been cleaned out in the set pieces by the bigger, but less mobile MSP pack.

Why it happened: Norths won because defensively it was superb and because it converted the few chances it had into points to lead 20-3 early in the second half. That was too big a lead for MSP to haul back. MSP, which had more ball than it knew what to do with, only came to life in the final quarter, threatening to steal the game when winger Fa'atau scored with three minutes to play.

Players of the match: Norths' No 8 and captain Tale Lilo was inspirational on defence and halftime replacement lock Junior Maligi turned in a lively 40 minutes, highlighted by a try from an 85m breakout. Lanky MSP lock Andrew Elvidge gave his side a two-to-one advantage in the set piece, and halfback Elton Moncrieff played strongly.

Team assessments: Norths continues to be an enigma. One day it's hot and the next it's awful. If it can become more competitive at set pieces and gain consistency it will prove a handful for all. MSP has the forwards, but last night the backs looked ordinary and it generally lacked Norths' commitment.

Upper Hutt 22 Petone 15

At the Hutt Rec: Upper Hutt 22 (Loni Katoa, Andre Aumata, Aaron Croasdale tries; Craig Foster 2con, pen) Petone 15 (Karl Te Nana, Lotu Filemu tries; Jack Kelly pen, con). HT: 12-10. Referee: Craig Pomare.

What happened:Upper Hutt came from 12-0 down after three minutes to claw its way back into the game and snatch victory three minutes from time.

Why it happened: After being shaken early by two slick back tries, Upper Hutt cranked into action and shut Petone down up front. Upper Hutt, following the Canterbury Crusaders' Super 12 game-plan, was content to kick deep for much of the match and force Petone into mistakes. The mistakes came, with Petone left winger Joe Collins making a hash of an up-and-under and then misjudging a deep kick to gift two tries.

Players of the match: Impossible to look pass Upper Hutt first five-eighth Craig Foster. He controlled proceedings and it was from his kicks that the tries came. Upper Hutt's loose forwards, especially openside flanker Nathan Russell, were key figures for their tackling and support play.

Team assessments: Upper Hutt, with two successive wins, now looms as the team to beat. Last night it showed plenty of character to come back and it was without flu-struck captain, lock Steve Gordon. Petone will probably have to win all its remaining games to make the top four. That will be a huge ask for a team that is vulnerable under pressure.