ELITE HOPES DASHED  

THE pathway for Nepean District Soccer Football Association juniors to play representative football has been hampered by a detour described as madness.

An announcement listing the 24 clubs successful in their application for inclusion in the Elite 1 or Elite 2 divisions for 2013 was made by Football NSW on Monday night and Nepean FC failed to appear on either line-up.

Instead, they were named to compete in the Intermediate 1 division, dashing the hopes of members who were aspiring to represent the club in the state's premium competition.

"We're gutted, shocked and dismayed," NDSFA Operations Manager Linda Cerone said. "As far as we could see, we met all the criteria. So we're surprised, gobsmacked and speechless."

While the Nepean, Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury areas were denied a link to the elite divisions, there were three Blacktown Association teams, four Southern District teams and two Bankstown clubs invited to fuel and fill the competition. "There's no logic in that decision," Ms Cerone said. "According to Football NSW, the west of NSW ends at Blacktown, nothing further. We thought they'd look at how football as a whole across the state is best served and we thought they'd see putting an elite club in at least each region or locality would be the right thing to do."

The 12,000 local players will now have to leave their teammates and club, make a lengthy trek elsewhere and attempt to shine on the grassroots of a foreign association in order to pursue the chance of playing elite football.

Football NSW offered the association no immediate reason for Nepean FC's exclusion.

"The Nepean players have been robbed of a pathway," Ms Cerone said. "You can't play for Penrith RSL Club and expect a scout will come along and select you to play for your country. They don't go to those games, they go to the highest level of elite football to find players."

With no appeal available, Ms Cerone said the association would re-group, rebuild and remain positive.

"We've got a two-year period where we have to try and get to the top of our game and make a go for promotion," she said. "But we'll continue to believe they made the wrong decision and we won't retract that at all."

Football NSW was unable to comment before press time.

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