Hastings school drops plan for club

By ANENDRA SINGH sports editor

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Clubs v schools

Soccer

A HASTINGS school has aborted a soccer plan that some believe was pushing students and their parents to make decisions under duress.

Hastings Boys' High School first XI coach Tony Simons says they will not field a team under the Havelock North Club banner in the men's Pacific Premier League this season, which kicks off early April.

"The whole journey has stopped because we only found out [on Sunday] Central Soccer doesn't allow two teams from the same club to play in a grade," says Simons, who is a teacher at HBHS and also a member of the Havelock North club.

Some people, wishing to remain anonymous after having read a letter from HBHS principal Rob Sturch, claim forcing schoolboys to pick between a school team and a club is tantamount to bullying and blackmailing.

In the newsletter, which requests parents to agree with the proposals or prefer not to have their sons involved, Sturch says the need to affiliate with a club alleviates the need to form their own club to foot it in the men's domain.

"... but to do that it will cost us a considerable sum as well as having to start the team in the third division and gain promotion every year until we reach the premier league," he says.

HBHS agreed to affiliate with the Havelock North Wanderers because of their facilities and clubrooms where after-match functions could be held.

"Other clubs we have considered hold their after-match [function] at a bar which restricts our players being able to attend," the letter states.

HBHS intended to enter a team into the First XI League of Hawke's Bay Secondary School Football to ensure players who didn't make the cull for the Wanderers would still be able to foot it at the top level.

Secondary schools severed ties with Central Football two years ago after demanding accountability from the parent organisation regarding what they considered to be high costs when they said all it did was prepare draws for games.

In the letter, Sturch states most players would have either played on Saturday mornings for the first XI or afternoon with the Wanderers, although the two teams were to have trained together.

The city's clubs, he says, have constantly hindered the school, affecting the long-term development of individuals and the teams' success.

"This includes players not being able to play because of injuries they receive playing club football, player burnout near the end of the season when tournaments take place, learning bad habits playing against men and, perhaps the most annoying trend, players not turning up for school matches without notice because clubs have taken them to play in other cities," says Sturch, adding HBHS had lost at least four titles in the past six years because of player no-shows on game days.

Consequently the school had developed a policy of playing for the school only.

"If they play for any other team, including a club side, they will not be eligible to play for Hastings Boys' High.

"Of course, this means that they will not play inter-school matches, participate in tournaments, be nominated for Hawke's Bay rep teams or have any involvement in the school's football programme.

"We ask for your support in this matter as we have had enough of what we consider very poor support from clubs."

Sturch has confirmed receiving letters from two parents expressing concern. He says the school has given no ultimatum to the boys or their parents.

"If they don't want to play for the school and want to play for a club then it's their decision."

Simons says the reality is few players from school level ended up representing Kinetic Electrical Hawke's Bay United at the elite level of the ASB Premiership in summer.

"Well look around, you'll find it's probably just Dakota Lucas and Fergus Neil at the moment," he says.

Lucas left the Bay to study at high school and play in Auckland for a while under coach Kevin Fallon before joining Waitakere United's stable as a youth player before graduating to foot it at the O-League level.

The former New Zealand age-group international striker, who represented the Oly Whites at the London Olympics, also played for Team Wellington and in Australia last summer before gravitating to the Bay to recover from injuries and be close to his whanau.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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