Sam Power, SUANFC President;
Welcome everyone to season 2019 for the Growthbuilt Sydney University Australian National Football Club. This evening we come together in anticipation of another exciting season. There has been some change over the off-season, however, as much as things change, they also stay the same. Some new coaches, new players and new faces around the club but also lots of returning players and coaches here today, brimming with excitement for another fulfilling football season. I’d like to spend the couple of minutes I’ve got to speak to you all to talk about some incredible people at this club.
I want to tell you about Daragh Mullen. Daragh is an impressive young man who after playing his junior career locally and participating in the Swans Academy was all set for a big first year in the senior side in 2018. While participating in a pre-season AFLX tournament, unfortunately Daragh ruptured his ACL. But this isn’t a story of sorrow or disappointment. His is a story of perseverance, dedication and commitment to his team. First I was impressed by Daragh’s commitment to the teams that he had trained with all pre-season, even after his injury he came to training, he came to games, and contributed in whatever way he could. All the while rehabilitating and taking care of his knee. Despite his rehab, he came back to 2019 pre-season fitter than most, working harder than most and providing leadership to the group beyond his years. Daragh’s story isn’t quite done yet, in the coming weeks and months he’ll play his first senior games with the club since his injury and I’m looking forward to watching the exceptional qualities he demonstrated while injured off the field translate on the field.
I want to tell you about Jim Beard. For Jim, 2018 is probably a season he’d soon rather shelve. Jim took his team from outside the finals in 2017 into a grand final in 2018 and a couple of kicks from a premiership. It has been a difficult journey over a number of years to build the Blues side from the ground up to be a competitive side again. But Jim’s dedication to that goal has been exceptional. In lower grades football, coaching can be a balancing act, you want all players to have the best opportunity they can, perhaps train them up, only to see the team above you add them to their team once the player starts producing results. You have to balance the goals of a wide range of players, from the first time player to the veteran who is looking to eke out the last games in his body. The culture you build has to have scope for the tremendous social aspects of football while still producing a winning and determined mindset. Jim manages all this tension beautifully. In 2019 he has not only managed the pre-season of his team but the entire rainbows group at the club which is made up of 3 teams. As a young coach, Jim’s leadership, thoughtfulness and care for the players is not just commendable, but quite rare in football clubs around the country like ours.
I want to tell you about Ryan Hebron. Ryan might seem like an odd person for me to talk about this evening but this is someone who is worthy of admiration. In 2019 Ryan will be plying his trade with Werribee in the VFL. For 2 years Ryan gave his all to our NEAFL side, along the way winning accolades including a University Blue and the club’s rising star award in 2017 and in 2018 he was awarded the Driscoll medal as our club’s best and fairest player. Ryan balanced this effort while studying Exercise Sports Science at Sydney University. Ryan was and is, humble, he was respectful, he was a consistent performer, a keen learner, a valued team mate and a respected opponent. I could think of nothing braver than his fierce determination to follow his dream of playing in the AFL by picking himself up and moving interstate to pursue it. While we wish him all the best in his quest to be drafted I’d ask all the players here to reflect on Ryan’s attitude and contribution to SUANFC and to elevate ourselves to the qualities that he brought to our club.
I want to tell you about Andrew Holmes. Or Dino as he is affectionately known. Dino is a 3 time premiership player with the club, he’s been in and around the club for over a decade now and studied at Sydney University some years ago. In 2019 he’s taking up a role on the board for the 3rd consecutive year as treasurer. He has been unable to properly play for nearly a year and a half now due to a knee injury. The role of treasurer is a bit of an under appreciated one, you don’t often stand in front of everyone and give a speech, you’re not on show around the club leading the volunteering, handing out apparel, you won’t get to hold up a premiership cup or kick the winning goal. And yet the club heavily relies on your expertise and input. Dino’s commitment to the club beyond his playing days is to be commended, he among a number of other board members and a wider volunteering group give up many hours, days and weeks of their personal time to give back to a community that has given something of value to them.
I want to tell you about Dre Apostolou. Dre is an upper aged Colts player in 2019, this year, as an under 19s player, he will play his 50th game for the club having played as far back as 2016 while he was still with the Newtown Swans. Dre is a driven competitor who will often complete an entire colts training session before joining in with the Premier Division squad to improve his game.
I want to tell you about Jack Dimery. Jack joined our club 3 years ago now, joining us from one of our opponent clubs in Sydney AFL, East Coast Eagles. Jack is a congenial member of the NEAFL playing squad and also a critical member of the team’s midfield. He has balanced a semi elite footballing career while also beginning his career in construction with the club’s naming rights partner, Growthbuilt. Jack is a quintessential member of the Students in my view, demonstrating not only commitment and skill to his footballing career but the same application to his study and post football career. He’s done this while being a likable figure around the club and a trusted friend.
These 6 people are but a snapshot of the 250+ members of our club, they are a small representation of the diversity at this club. As I reflected on these extraordinary people and others who I couldn’t include something really crystallised in my mind. What is SUANFC? SUANFC isn’t the teams it has, it’s not how great the apparel is, or the size and shape of the fields it has to train on, it’s not the competitions we participate in, nor could you only describe SUANFC by how much success we have on the field. SUANFC is, in fact, the sum of its people. This club exists to bring people together, to form social connections, an opportunity to give something back to your local community. SUANFC may be the opportunity to showcase your talents and your skill, you might win some games of football with mates, but it’s also an opportunity to find out who you want to be as a person, learn the value of hard work, learn how to be gracious in the face of defeat or humble in the face of victory. At our club you can combine study with sport, you’ll probably make life-long friendships, and perhaps you’ll make an effort to volunteer your time when the chance is there.
Whether you’re an elite, developing or social player, a volunteer, administrator or coach, SUANFC has a place for you, what qualities will others say about you when they are reflecting on your time at this club? What kind of person do you want to be? Good luck to everyone for the opportunities that lie ahead in 2019, represent SUANFC with pride and represent yourself with pride. Go the Students.