Luca Balestrazzi looks ahead to the youth NPL Queensland semi-finals

 In News

Brisbane City showed that the future is very bright by winning the premiership in both the Under 18’s and Under 20’s National Premier Leagues Queensland competitions.

For first-time under 18’s coach Luca Balestrazzi, the premiership was a fitting reward for the hard work his players put in throughout the year.

“For me personally it is a massive result, because as a coach it was my first season in a senior environment, in a new City and a new competition.” Luca said.

“But most importantly, I’m most happy for the guys.

“They worked really hard, I asked them to do a lot of extra things, a lot of work and it paid off, so very good.”

The under 18 age-group marks one of the major steps from junior to senior football, and although opportunities were limited for the under 18’s in the senior side, Luca sees plenty of reason to be positive for the very near future.

“For the under 18’s … it was the first time they move from junior to youth football.”

“Unfortunately, during the season we did not have as many opportunities to push players up because we had a lot of players in the under 20’s and the senior team.”

“With Kossie, we were talking on a weekly basis about which players are doing what, who is doing well, who is struggling, who is going to be under 20’s first team set up next year, which is really exciting, because next year the core of my squad is going to go up into the under 20’s, and maybe involved in the first team so that is what it is all about.”

Luca is working with some talented players, but he credits those who worked hardest as being the ones who developed most under his tutelage.

“To be honest, there are players with natural talent in my team.” Luca said.

“But as always, whether it is Australia, Italy, whatever, who puts the work in gets the result. So the players who improved the most are those who were not the extremely talented players at the start of the year.

“They came through really well because they bonded with my expectations, the mentality requirements I tried to set up with every one of them.

“There are, in my opinion, four or five players who next year could, and should be involved in a first team environment. They have the characteristics who could make it happen.”

Despite having a brief of developing players for the senior set up, Luca was able to put his own stamp on the team, something he credits John Kosmina with allowing him the freedom to operate in.

“Usually football people want their teams below the first team playing the same style of football so those players are ready to be put individually into that environment, but it can be tricky. It can be wrong because having a different way of coaching and listening to different tips and opinions can help them to grow.

“At the end of the day, everything is to develop players for the first team or to improve them for the future.

“We have a very similar way to play the game, especially from the back. He sees things a different way to me, he sees the situations of the game but thats coaching.

“We have been working very well, he was happy about the under 18 style of play.”

Luca elaborated on his relationship with Kosmina, crediting the former Socceroo with giving him the opportunity to take the position in the first place.

Luca has worked closely with John Kosmina. Photo Simon Smale.

“I will always be glad to Kossie for pushing to give me this position because now we are celebrating the premiership, finals, etc. But if it wasn’t for Kossie and his pushing then I wouldn’t have this position at the end of the day, so in addition to this he is a great man, who knows a lot about football and I’m looking forward to working with him again next year more closely.”

Now, Luca will lead his team through the finals, and despite admitting that the premiership was his primary aim, the Italian knows that the finals represent another challenge to overcome.

“Honestly, my goal was the premiership.” Luca said.

“(Playing in the finals) is good for me and for the club and for Kossie from the technical side of things, to see how the players are going to cope with a knockout game.

“So, they play more games, happy days. We won the premiership, happy days. The thing is how they are going to cope with the pressure of knowing that you can play the game and go home.

“It is going to be good, because we are going to play at home so how they can cope with the pressure because if they are going to play first team – which I hope (they do) – they are going to have to play with pressure.

Luca has been combining his under 18 duties with coaching junior players at the club. Photo Simon Smale.

“They know the way I want them to play. Winning this premiership a couple of rounds ago, they understandably pulled out a bit. They dropped their standards, their intensity, their concentration. But I’m sure they are going to step up because they realise that they cannot be as sloppy on the semi-final.”

Both the under 18’s and under 20’s will play their semi-finals in a Saturday double header at Corporate Travel Management Stadium, and Luca said that this experience will help his players progress into first team contention for next season, highlighting this as the reason as to why he came to City in the first place.

“It is going to be good. It is going to be good in my opinion to really see a certain kind of characteristics and skills from them, because we are looking forward to first team football as fast as possible.

“One of the main things that brought me to Brisbane City in the first place – other than the chance to work with Kossie – was the approach of creating a link, and making players play up, giving exposure to game time.

“In my opinion NPL should be more about what Brisbane City is doing…experience with young players.”

The under 18’s kick off their semi-final against South West Queensland Thunder at 3:00pm on Saturday afternoon at Corporate Travel Management Stadium, with the under 20’s playing immediately after against Brisbane Strikers.

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