Team Wellington football coach Matt Calcott says his young players can kiss goodbye their professional dreams unless they start learning from their mistakes.
Wellington's underwhelming national league continued yesterday with a 3-0 away loss to Hawke's Bay United and last season's runners-up are now five points off the semifinal pace.
In the eyes of the Phoenix, the side contains some of the best young players in the country, but they are yet to fire on a consistent basis.
"If some of these young boys want to kick on to another level, they need to learn from their mistakes," Calcott said.
"Hopefully in the new year they'll turn over a new leaf and the concentration levels will come up a notch."
Calcott was hopeful that his discussions with the Phoenix would result in him getting better access to their academy players when the league resumes next year.
He said the full squad had only trained together "six or seven" times because of the players' dual commitments.
"It's tough and hopefully that will change but we're not into making excuses, it's not like guys aren't getting the work in."
Calcott is in a tricky position, having to balance development and results.
Asked which he viewed as more important, he said: "I've probably always had results-based sides but I've had some top youngsters that have kicked on anyway. But as a group we're quite young at the moment and there's probably not that balance."
Calcott plans to sign a striker and two midfielders in the January transfer window.
Wellington were rocked by two early Hawke's Bay goals in as many minutes yesterday.
Dakota Lucas - a Wellington player last season - opened his season account with a header before Justin Gulley gave away a penalty that was converted by Cole Peverley.
Just 14 minutes in, Wellington were chasing the game and Conor Tinnion killed the contest with a curling free kick midway through the second half.
"To be honest I think 3-0 was quite flattering [to Hawke's Bay] but in saying that 3-0 is 3-0. We need to be ruthless in front of goal, we had a number of good opportunities, and defend our goal with some real vigour."
Elsewhere, leaders Waitakere United won the top-of-the-table clash with Canterbury United 3-1, Auckland City belted Manawatu 4-0 and Waikato FC thrashed Otago United 6-1.
Wellington's next game is home to Waitakere on January 12.
HAWKE'S BAY 3 TEAM WGTN 0
- The Dominion Post
What effect will a potential ban on booze at Rugby Sevens 2015 have on you?Related story: Booze ban hovers over sevens