Lower Hutt's youth development focus pays off

KAROLINE TUCKEY
Last updated 10:21 06/11/2012
HUTfootieweb
That's mine: Lower Hutt's Taban Makaii mixes it up with Birkenhead defenders at the Central Youth Under-19 Youth Championships final in Napier.

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Winning the country's top under- 19 football tournament caps a record-breaking season for the Lower Hutt Football Club.

The team played through a gruelling eight matches to defend their top placing in the Football Central under-19 Youth Championships in Napier over Labour weekend.

A nail-biting 1-0 showdown against arch-rivals Birkenhead United was played out in extra time. With nothing on the board for either team, LHFC centreback Kade Schrijvers netted a header in the 62nd minute. Birkenhead worked hard to try to equalise, including a shot from the corner in the final minute, but didn't manage to connect.

This is the third year the clubs have faced off at the finals; Lower Hutt came off second best in 2010, before finding the right formula last year.

LHFC president Jim Baxter says the win seals a trifecta for the season, after the under-19 team also claimed top place in the Pak 'N Save Upper Hutt under-19 and the Ivan England under-19 Tournaments earlier in October.

"And with the success that we had in the Chatham Cup this year [the club's first Chatham Cup final match], it's been amazing, it really was a fantastic year."

Director of coaching, and coach of the U19s Brendan McIntyre, says the youth win is proof the club is building strong foundations for future competition.

"About two to three years ago we did decide to base the club on youth development, and a lot of people were critical of us for doing it, but we've seen the benefits."

The Napier win was achieved without the team's two star players, goalie Scott Basalaj, and Hamish Watson, who were unable to play due to commitments with the Wellington Phoenix development squad.

"We had a younger side than we had the year before, so to repeat what we've done last year was really pleasing," McIntyre says.

Tournament weekend was hard graft, with hot weather and hard grounds. "We're a good passing team, and we've got lads that individually are pretty technically good at this level and understand the game pretty well and play a good style of football."

During the tournament LHFC knocked neighbouring team Petone out of the pool play-offs in the final match before the quarter finals.

"We were nil, nil, with about two minutes to go, but we managed to score, which knocked them out, which was a bit of a shame," McIntyre says.

The whole club has benefited from the connection to the Phoenix development squad, McIntyre says.

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"The young lads that we have, they see [the development players] with an understanding of where they could be in the future if they put the hard work in. It's an incentive."

Standout players in the tournament included captain, and midfielder Taylor Hall-Jones, forward Taban Makaii, centreback Kade Schrijvers, forward Daniel Minshull, and Hayden Stuthridge in defence.

- Hutt News

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