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New coach, new style, new goals

Davor Tavich gets his players ready for training. PHOTOS/JADE CVETKOV


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“We have an objective to stay in the Central League, that’s massive for us and the region.”

That’s the aim of new Wairarapa United men’s coach Davor Tavich, who is fulfilling a long-held ambition to coach in the Central League.

A Croatian, Tavich came to New Zealand in 1989 and played a few years in Auckland before taking up coaching with Glenfield Rovers.

He later worked in youth development in Lower Hutt, Christchurch, and then Nelson, where he has been since 2007.

He coached the Nelson Marlborough Falcons to the final of the national youth league in just their second season.

Tavich also coached Nelson College to win the New Zealand Secondary School Championship.

More recently he coached Tasman United to sixth place in the 2017-18 National League and was assistant coach in the 2019-20 campaign.

Coaching in the Central League is a chance for Tavich, 54, to refresh his coaching career with a new challenge.

“I had talked to Paul Ifill just regarding if there were any opportunities in Central League because I know Central League is very strong, and sure enough the Wairarapa position came up, and he asked if I would be interested,” he said.

“It’s good for me to come and try myself in this league and it is an exciting challenge.”

Tavich is aware of the task ahead in rebuilding the team who went through 2019 winless and narrowly avoided relegation on goal difference from Wellington United.

“From what I gather a lot of the players were young to begin with, talented but young and Central League is very tough and arguably the best league in the country.”

“The players will be better for the experience from last year. Obviously, they’re a year older and a lot smarter and bigger and stronger, and I think this year from what I’ve seen already they’re developing into really good young footballers,” Tavich said.

“We pretty much have all those young ones in the team again this year, but they’re richer for that experience.”

Wairarapa United have worked hard in the off-season to recruit some quality players to augment the talented youngsters.

They include Americans Ben Watson and Scott Adams, and Frenchman Hugo Delhommelle, who played four games for United in the early part of the 2019 season.

Last year’s player-coach Cory Chettleburgh, and captain Cameron Lindsay also return, while James Taylor, who has played in Wales and is working as a project manager at the Tararua Wind Farm, adds more depth.

“It’s just that what we have now is what we didn’t have last year, a little bit more knowledge and experience and I have no doubt we’re going to be a lot better this year than they were last year,” Tavich said.

Tavich also expected 40-year-old Ifill to play a big part in the upcoming season.

“Paul has always been keeping himself in good shape.

“Obviously, he’s not as quick as he used to be, but I think his football intelligence helps him and he doesn’t have to run as much as some other players.”

“His influence by just being on the pitch is massive for us. He takes a lot of attention from the opposition and that creates space for the young boys to cause some damage.

“Paul is passionate, he loves the club, he wants to be successful. He’s been a professional for a long time and to be successful and be the best regardless of how old you are, that doesn’t leave you.”

While staying in the Central League is Tavich’s and the club’s objective, he also wants to see his team play with style.

“The coaches always want to play beautiful football.

“I personally as a player and a coach I like to enjoy my team play football,” he said.

“I want to do it in a way that people enjoy watching us play but I have an obligation to develop these boys to be confident playing, and at the same time get a positive result.

“Football has developed, it’s quick, it’s direct. There’s talk of possession football but people don’t play it just to look pretty, you play it to open up gaps, and then you make sure you use it and you use it fast because at this level those gaps don’t appear too often and they shut pretty quick, and I have the players to create those opportunities.”

Tavich predicted a very tough competition in the 10-team league, which will run from Saturday to early October.

“Miramar Rangers are pretty much Team Wellington, Western Suburbs have the Ole Academy, Lower Hutt are the Phoenix Reserves, Wellington Olympic are going to be very strong, and Napier are traditionally very strong.

“We want to be safe in the league, anything extra is a bonus, if we can be mid-table, we’ll take it. We will try and beat everybody, but we are realistic at where we’re at.”

Wairarapa United start their campaign on Saturday away to Stop Out.

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