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(from left) Francis De Vries, Jesse Randall, Cam Howieson and Michael Woud.

New Zealand’s second A-League team can now officially announce the first of their signings for the upcoming season.

Initially the club announced that they had signed Jesse Randall, Michael Woud, Cameron Howieson and Francis de Vries. A few days later they added Max Mata and Tommy Smith to the squad.

The fact that all six are eligible to play for New Zealand shows the clubs intent to foster a sense of pride amongst Kiwi’s that their largest city can now boast a top-tier football team, while their willingness to sign players before they have reached their prime demonstrates the boards confidence in Corica and his teams ability to coach them into the players Auckland FC will need to compete in the A-League.

Below is a brief breakdown of each player, and what you can expect them to bring to the squad.

Jesse Randall

Despite predominantly playing as a left winger, 21 year old Jesse Randall is a goalscoring machine. In 2024 he has already scored 7 goals in as many games for Wellington Olympic, scoring 17 in 22 in 2022. He also got 41 goals in 44 games for North Wellington between 2019 and 2021. All this and he is still only 21 years old, and is yet to make his senior debut for the All Whites. Randall is almost certain to flourish in the A-League, and don’t be surprised if he makes a jump up to Europe before too long.

Michael Woud

Aged 25, Woud is likely to have been signed as Auckland FC’s first-choice goalkeeper. This represents arguably the biggest gamble taken by the club’s recruitment department thus far, as Woud is yet to complete a full season as a first-choice stopper. That said, when he has been thrust into first team action (whilst on loan at Dutch side Almere) he impressed enough for them to make the deal permanent (although he only went on to make a further 29 appearances for the club).  

Francis de Vries

A strong and technically capable centre back, De Vries made the move from Canterbury to Europe at the age of 18, signing a six-month contract at Swiss giants FC Basel. The club chose not to renew his contract, so de Vries jumped to the US to play college football, later signing for Michigan Bucks and the Vancouver Whitecaps (although he only ever played for their second team). A return to Europe followed less than 12 months later, playing for 5 years in Sweden’s top tier. Auckland football fans may recognise the 29 year olds name, as de Vries spent last season at Eastern Suburbs back in Auckland, scoring an impressive 7 goals.

Cameron Howieson

Howieson made a splash when he became the youngest Kiwi to play in the EFL when he came on for Burnley at the age of 17 years and 103 days. He was also heavily involved in international youth tournaments at this point, and his career looked to be on an upward trajectory. However, Howieson struggled to break into the first team at Burnley and the club allowed his contract to expire. After a stint in Scotland with St Mirrens, Howieson returned to New Zealand – first with Team Wellington, then Auckland City FC in 2017. Initially Howieson’s ceiling looked sky high, and although he plateaued somewhat in his mid-twenties, he seems to have made the right decision by returning to play semi-pro at home, as it eventually led to his re-introduction into the international set-up. At 29 he has now been rewarded for his fine form and hard work with a pro-contract at Auckland FC. A creative midfielder willing to do the dirty work when he has to, Howieson will be happy to see youth and energy from Randall and Mata stretching oppositions back lines.

Tommy Smith

34 year old Smith is the man tasked with bringing experience to this burgeoning club. And it’s hard to think of a better man for the job. Smiths career spans nearly two decades, with the vast majority coming in England’s second and third tier, with 15 of them being as an international footballer. The veteran centre back has 51 caps for the All Whites, including turning out at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Smith has said he hopes ‘to show the younger lads a thing or two’, and no doubt the cool, calm and solid pro can provide a strong foundation upon which to build out from the back.   

Max Mata

Another promising young forward we are excited to see pull on an Auckland FC jersey. T

he striker returns home to Auckland on loan from English side Shrewsbury Town, and shows intent from the club to bring exciting young talent to the front line. The fact he is on loan obviously means Mata will be playing with a point to prove, trying to win a permanent move should he want it. He may not be the starting number 9, but expect Mata to take every opportunity he gets to put himself in the shop window in the A-League.


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