JOHN Hutchinson will be among the A-League’s first ever decade-long servants at one club after this week signing a new two-year contract with the Mariners to take him through to the end of season 2014/15.
JOHN Hutchinson will be among the A-League-s first ever decade-long servants at one club after this week signing a new two-year contract with the Mariners to take him through to the end of season 2014/15.
A lot will be said and written about this achievement - all worthy of the man, the player, the captain and the clubman.
He will join the likes of Archie Thompson (Melbourne Victory) and Massimo Murdocca (Brisbane Roar) - depending of course on what happens with them over the next couple of seasons - to reach double figures as a foundation player at the one club.
My first involvement with “Hutch” came at the now defunct Northern Spirit in the old NSL when he signed from his boyhood club Gippsland Falcons (or Eastern Pride as they were re-named) in 2001.
He went on to make 77 appearances for Spirit before the league fell over and professional footballers were out in the cold during the transition period between that and the start of the A-League.
As then coach of Manly United in the NSW Premier League, he was the first player I went after for two reasons - he could play the game and he could bring a team together.
It was Manly-s first season in the top level of the revamped state league and crucial to football on the Northern Beaches that we survived and thrived at that level. I needed a captain to take us in the right direction and he was a perfect fit.
Twenty five games and four goals later he-d done his job brilliantly and off he went to sign a deserved contract with foundation A-League franchise Central Coast Mariners.
His 193 appearances for the Mariners and 11 caps for Malta say enough about his on-field ability so it-s the off-field “Hutch” I want to focus on more so today.
Put simply, he is the type of player and personality every club needs - he is the very culture that the Mariners are both renowned for and so proud of.
In the dressing room, on the training pitch, in the heat of battle and as a “social secretary” you can rely on him - both as a team-mate and as a coach. It-s why Graham Arnold handed him the armband this season.
We have a fantastic squad of players at the Mariners - senior, young and in between - but it-s perhaps what he does behind the scenes for the club and his team-mates that sets him apart from the rest.
The work he and his wonderful wife Kate - as much a part of the Mariners as her husband - do to make new players to the club feel welcome and fit in as quickly and as seamlessly as possible is second to none.
From having them over for dinner regularly and ensuring their new home is comfortable and fitted with all the right furniture to doing trips to Sydney airport to drop off and pick up it-s all in a days work.
He-s the first to put his hand up for promotional visits on behalf of the Mariners - something the club takes great pride in doing better than any other club in the league.
It-s a rarity in this day and age of professional sport to have a player and club show such loyalty to reach a 10-year union and one gets the impression “Hutch” will bleed yellow and navy long after his boots are hung up.
It-s a milestone that he, his family, the club and the entire Central Coast region should be damn proud of!