By Matt Fotia
Long term sustainability.
That’s the big focus for Yea coaching pair Ash Walsh and Gaby Duncan, as the Tigers embark on yet another wonderful journey in the AFL Outer East Division Two, after two contrasting seasons for the clubs netballers and footballers in 2019.
Despite losing just one game of netball all season, Yea were coach-less in 2019. Such was the ambiguity over who was marshalling the back to back premiers, when the ‘Teams of the Year’ were announced the ‘Yea Co-Coaching Group’ was named as the assistant coach.
That’ll be different in 2020, as Gaby Duncan returns to netball, after a short break from the game she’s played for majority of her life.
Duncan started playing with Yea around 2009 and has been around the club on and off since then, including the 2018 premiership, before having a year off in 2019 to play football and re-invigorate her passion.
“I wanted to revitalise my love for the game so decided to have a break and now I’m keen to get back into it,”
“A year off made me realise I wasn’t done with netball, especially not at Yea, and it’s a massive privilege to be coaching.”
On paper, it looks an easy job, taking over a side who seem destined to cruise to their third consecutive premiership. But for Duncan her role is not solely about wins and losses. It’s about ensuring that Yea’s netball program remains at the top for as long as possible.
“There’s success in winning and there’s success in club culture and people wanting to stick around,”
“As a small town competing against some of the bigger towns, we have a different task on our hands,”
“It’s all about creating a positive and honest environment where people come not just for the game, but because they want to be there,”
“So success isn’t just winning, it’s making sure we’ve got a sustainable netball club for years to come.”
For Duncan, stressing the importance that there is more to sport than just playing, winning and losing will be key in creating this club culture she seeks, with a focus on maintaining a strong core of ‘Yea locals’.
“It’s the important that girls who live in Yea, continue to have that love for Yea, so that even if they move away, they still want to play for their home town,”
“The points system encourages it (homegrown talent), but it’s important to have buddies and role models within the club to help girls understand it’s not just about the game, its about community and a cohesive culture.”
This year is going to be better.
That’s what Yea Football Coach Ash Walsh is forecasting on the eve of the 2020 Division Two season, although he wasn’t always so sure.
“At Christmas I was stressed that nothing was going to come through, but now I think as a whole we are much better placed then we were last year,”
“Last year was really hard, so it’s good to add some senior players to help out group improve.”
The Tigers have added Chirnside Park pair Mark Steiner and Luke Smith, Heidelberg’s Mitch Skelly, Thurgoona’s Rory Muggivan as well as Jacob Rowlands (Seymour), Will Schwab (VAFA) and the returning Indi Kaak.
Walsh is hoping that this squad improvement will mix well with the resilience that his side developed throughout a tough 2019.
“The resilience from our group and mental strength is so much more now, having been through those tough times,”
“We had to move the ball very slow last season, with a very defensive game style, but now we understand how to contain sides, how to defend well and retain the football,”
“What we want to do now is start to turn that into more sustained quick ball movement forward.”
The Tigers have set their sights on six to seven wins in 2020, in what many expect to be a very even competition, with Seville having been promoted to Division One, along with Gembrook-Cockatoo. Warburton Millgrove and Broadford replace them.
“The top sides, Kinglake, Yarra Junction and Warburton Millgrove, will be very tough to beat, but after that I expect it to fall away to a middle crew,”
“So the aim for us is to be the best of the rest, if we can finish with six to seven wins, it’ll be a really good year.”
As for the newest Outer East club, Broadford, Walsh and the Tigers are enthusiastic to have another local rival amongst their ranks, despite them being an unknown quantity.
“We’re excited to have them in, it’s a great town, similar size to us and we already play them in cricket so it’ll be great to build on that north side rivalry.”
“The other clubs, like Yarra Junction, Powelltown and Warburton have it (local rivalry) so it’s great for us, Alex, Broadford and Kinglake to be able to build that sort of rivalry,”
“But I don’t know what to expect from them on field.”
Just like his netballing peer, Walsh is aware that the main focus for Yea is not to be solely on season 2020. The long term security and future of the club is very high on his agenda.
“Sustainability is the goal of both the coaches and the committee,”
“It’s hard for us to draw people past clubs that have bigger budgets, but the long term for us is to keep showing improvement,”
“Because once you build momentum, people start to come to you and build on that positive vibe.”