With the Sky Blues U13’s, U14’s and U16’s through to their Preliminary Finals and the U18’s defending their Premiership and Championship, we caught up with Academy Director Kelly Cross to get his thoughts on how Season 2018 has panned out.
1 – Three of the four junior sides progressed through to this weekend’s Preliminary Finals, how pleasing is that?
We don’t see team results as the main indicator, as our role is to develop and promote individual players to the A-League squad. However, it’s pleasing to see these teams do quite well, given we use so many players who are a year younger.
2 – Like you said, the majority of the juniors play an age group up, how has this shaped our seasons and their development?
It’s all about making sure the players are challenged to improve and ensuring they learn from the match every week. We’ve seen remarkable improvements.
3 – A big focus is on development in these age groups, how have you seen the sides develop over the season?
I’ve seen every single player grow in one or more ways, and all this individual development has taken place in the context of a playing style that reflects our club philosophy. Our teams are changed every week, with different players moving up an age or staying in their own age group, so I am always looking for a collective team performance improvement and I’m very satisfied with progress.
4 – The U18’s and U20’s had their Grand Finals at the weekend, what did you take away from those games?
You get to see how the players perform in big games and what their reaction is when things go against them. You also get a feeling for the boys’ appetite for winning trophies, which is important to our club at the senior level.
5 – The U18’s completed the double double, defending their 2017 titles, what do you put that down to?
The squad was different from last year’s Champions, so we sense there might be something of value in the consistent development principles employed at the Academy – the transition from ‘non-competitive’ U16’s to the pressure of the NPL 1 league has always been easy for the boys to make. I also must pay tribute to Jimmy van Weeren, who has coached the side these last two seasons, along with Jason Rea and Richard Paddle.
6 – In terms of past Academy seasons, where does this one rank?
Every season is a step forward, where we build on what was successful the previous year and add what we feel is required. So, this was another great year!
7 – What will you be looking to improve on in the new Season in 2019?
The list is too long! We always strive to improve in every aspect of what we do, even if by just 1%.