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Volleyball feature: North east to the south coast for sporting siblings
THE sports-mad Jutkiewicz family certainly boasts a revered, if unlikely, front line.
Lukas, the only boy, has made a career out of scoring goals and has already hit the headlines twice by becoming the subject of two £1million-plus transfers in the football world.
And while the striking exploits of sister Natalia may have gone largely unnoticed outside of Poole, she is starting to make a name for herself with Wessex Volleyball Club.
As children growing up in Southampton, Natalia looked out for her younger brother. Now, the Middlesbrough centre forward is more than happy to repay the favour.
“We have always been close because we are both sport-mad,” said Natalia, who, at 30, is seven years older than her brother.
“We used to play together when we were children. I would play football with him and he would play volleyball with me. We both loved basketball and still do.
“I was always very protective of him and he was the youngest as well. Even when we went our separate ways, we still kept in touch and we still speak almost every day.
“I am so proud of him and proud of what he has achieved. People don’t realise how hard it is and there have been some really tough times along the way.
“Lukas is one of the most inspiring people I know. He has been my inspiration as I have tried to improve myself with my volleyball career.”
As Lukas was starting out in the professional ranks at Swindon, Natalia was taking her first steps towards become a PE teacher.
“We went our separate ways after school,” said Natalia, who is now head of PE at Bitterne Park Secondary School in Southampton. “Lukas progressed through the academy at Southampton and was in the same intake as Gareth Bale and Theo Walcott.
“One of the proudest things I can remember is turning up at Swindon to watch Lukas and seeing a young child wearing a shirt with ‘Jutkiewicz’ printed on the back. That was quite a moment.
“He then earned a four-year contract at Everton before moving to Coventry following a spell in Scotland with Motherwell. I watch him when I can but it is difficult now he is so far away.
“We support each other as much as we can. He came to watch us when we played in Northumbria recently and said he was surprised at the high standard, which was flattering and nice to hear.”
Since being converted to middle hitter, Natalia has been a revelation for Wessex Rocare, her exploits this season helping them reach the semi-finals of the National Cup.
She said: “I joined the club two years ago and am so glad I did because I have learned so much. Being left-handed, I had never before played in the middle so had to learn fast. I feel I have improved significantly thanks to my coach Geoff Allen who has worked so hard and been very patient with me.
“In Vicky Palmer and Zara Dampney, I have got two great players either side of me. We have got a great team and have gelled this season. There is a tremendous spirit and that is key to any successful team.”
Natalia is being given away by her brother at her wedding which takes place just two days before the Championship play-off final at Wembley in May.
And she is hoping it could be a double sporting celebration with victory for Wessex Rocare over Malory Eagles in the forthcoming semi-final setting up a trip to Kettering for National Cup finals weekend in April, the most prestigious event in the volleyball calendar.