Much bigger prize awaits top talents

Australian coach Airton Andrioli will use this weekend's Australian Beach Soccer Cup in Wollongong as a form guide for upcoming national selection.

The annual two-day tournament, held at Wollongong's North Beach today and tomorrow, has taken on new meaning since its humble beginnings in 2010.

Governing body Football Federation Australia has endorsed the tournament for the first time this year, and teams from interstate are also set to take part.

Andrioli will be on hand to gauge the region's talent, while also finalising selection for the Australian side in the Asian qualifiers for the beach soccer World Cup.

While that playing group is mostly set in stone, Andrioli hasn't counted out extending the playing squad if he sees suitable players.

"I'm coming down because Football Federation Australia is endorsing the event," he said.

"We've got to finalise the team yet and there is an outside chance we could look beyond the current group."

Chris Nathaniel, who currently plays with the South Coast Wolves in the NSW Premier League, said many players were hopeful of a look-in with the national squad.

"There's a bit of an opportunity, I guess," Nathaniel, who is playing with Illawarra side NSW select, said.

"Especially with the sport growing and the national coach coming down, there's a fair bit of incentive.

"It's a lot more spectacular and fun to play. You don't know what the ball's going to do and you can afford to throw your body into the contest more because obviously it's a softer landing.

"I've been using it as a pre-season tool and have found that it's a lot more physical, too."

This year's event will include hip-hop performances and Brazilian samba dancers.

The event will get under way from 9am this morning. Entry is free.

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