Two players from the RH3 Football Academy are on their way to Spain to spend a month with professional club CF Rayo Majadahonda.
Taupo-based Dylan Gardiner (17) and Cambridge’s Luke Brooke-Smith (15) will train at the Madrid club who play in the Primera Federación.
Main photo: At the airport … Luke Brooke-Smith (left) and Dylan Gardiner.
The club operate a High-Performance PRO Centre to help young players integrate into a professional football programme, providing access to all the resources necessary to become an elite player.
“This is a fantastic opportunity for Dylan and Luke,” RH3 founder Ricki Herbert said.
“They’ll be able to immerse themselves into a professional football environment and learn how to deal with off-the-pitch challenges such as language and cultural issues.
“It’s valuable experience for anyone contemplating a professional career because so many opportunities these days are abroad.”
Both players have already benefitted from overseas experience.
Gardiner, a central defender, captained the New Zealand U-17 team at the 2023 FIFA Men’s U-17 World Cup in Indonesia. He also went to the OFC U-17 Championship tournament in Fiji with the national squad, helping win the title.
Midfielder Brooke-Smith spent a week of his December 2023 school holidays training at men’s A-League club Melbourne City.
He was a member of the successful RH3 team that won the U-15 section at Victoria’s Shepparton Cup tournament in 2023.
Both players have developed their skills with the RH3 Football Academy, and made a successful transition into senior football with Waikato clubs.
Gardiner has played for Northern League club Hamilton Wanderers, while Brooke-Smith has become a regular choice for Lotto NRFL Southern Conference runners-up Cambridge.
“None of their success has happened by accident,” Herbert says. “They are extremely dedicated and have worked hard to reach the stage where they can look ahead and see opportunities.
“Our role as an academy is to help open the doors to those opportunities, and to support them.”