Sport

Club important community link

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March 15, 2018

Senior football: Scott Tyers (third best and fairest), Mitch Thomas, Michael Morgan (runner-up best and fairest) and Don Stirling (best and fairest winner).

The new president of the Avenel Football/Netball Club has a strong historical connection to the organisation and has set his sights on achieving success both on and off the field.

Bruce Rowley, who works for the Country Fire Authority in Shepparton, takes over a club whose senior football and netball teams have made it to the business end of the season in the past two years. With mirrored fortunes the two sides both made it the grand final in 2016 and preliminary final in 2017.

But Rowley says a premiership is just the ‘‘icing on the cake’’ and that every club needs to look beyond silverware.

‘‘A premiership is great for any club and great for any community, but you’ve got to keep it in perspective ... you’ve also got to think of where you’re going to be tomorrow,’’ he said.

‘‘You can’t just go and spend all this money to bring players in ... because success is not just around premierships, it’s built around a successful club, and having people involved who are enjoying the game and enjoying the day.

‘‘There’s many ways you can look at success ... and while a premiership is probably the icing on the cake, it’s not the ultimate as far as I’m concerned.’’

Off-field success is hugely significant, Rowley said, because of the important role a football/netball club plays in a small community like Avenel.

‘‘It’s a very important link,’’ he said.

‘‘In all small communities the football/netball club is the hub — it’s the social meeting place for families to come, for children to start playing junior sport, for older players to have a beer and a chat ... it’s a focal point for any small community.’’

Rowley said he hopes to draw on his experience in the CFA as a Volunteer Emergency Services Equipment Program (VESEP) minor works project manager.

Both this role and that of club president, Rowley said, have one major thing in common — working with volunteers. Nevertheless, Rowley said he has big shoes to fill.

‘‘The past committee and president have done a great job with Avenel Football Club to have it where we’re sitting today,’’ he said.

‘‘The club went out and recruited footballers, some years ago, who have good morals, respect, and a good holding within the community. They’ve enjoyed their time, they’ve come back, and as time goes on they’ve brought their mates along for the journey.

‘‘So we’re fortunate the past committee recruited some respected personnel, on and off the football field.

One of these players Rowley is referring to is Michael Morgan, who has just been appointed captain of the Swans for the 2018 season.

Morgan joined the club — along with playing coach Don Stirling — in 2013 and was awarded the club’s best and fairest in 2014 and runner-up last season.

The Swans’ defensive anchor, Scott Tyers, who finished third in the best and fairest in 2017, has been appointed vice-captain.

Mark Nisbett will coach the seconds football side, with Andrew Green to coach the thirds.

But Rowley said the club is still on the hunt for people to coach the A-grade and B-grade netball sides.

Crippled by injuries, the Swans’ have lost A-grade netballers Tegan Hansen, Laura Mundy, Erin Engel and Kath Hard for the season, making for an unfortunate vacuum of experience Rowley said he hopes to avoid in the future.

‘‘The A-grade team has been very successful over many years, and like any club where there’s success, girls move on for different reasons to try to have success elsewhere, or for work and family commitments,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s a revolving thing in both football and netball, but we just need to be smarter in our planning to make sure we don’t have this void again going forward. It’s about bringing the juniors along and making them want to be part of the club and be happy here — it will grow from there.’’

The Swans train on Wednesday nights at 6pm at Avenel Recreation Reserve. There will be a football practice match at home against Yea on March 24, after which the club is having a family barbecue at the Avenel Hotel with all welcome.

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