After a couple of years stuck in the doldrums through no fault of its own, there is finally some light at the end of the tunnel for the Yarroweyah Football and Netball Club.
While the pre-season started tumultuously for the Hoppers with coach Paul Massingham resigning, things have suddenly turned a corner with the appointment of club captain Andrew Jones and stalwart Geoff Benson as co-coaches.
Despite there being a common perception in the area that the club is on its knees and has run its race, influential figures at the club believe that view is misguided and that the tide is starting to turn.
‘‘There is a perception of the club folding. Well, you have a look out there,’’ club president Bill Jones said at training last week.
‘‘There are 30 on the senior track tonight.
‘‘We are short on under-17s, which we are trying to solve, but by the same token we have four senior netball sides, which is fantastic.
‘‘A bit like the footy, the under-17 girls are short on numbers, but we are optimistic that we will be able to string a side together.’’
The club wants people in the area to know it is ‘‘open for business’’.
Despite the challenges, optimism is abuzz at training, mainly due to the spirit garnered by the new coaches.
Although the coaching role was unexpected for both men, it is one they are ready to embrace.
Benson will break the games record at the club this year barring injury. He said coaching was a natural progression.
‘‘I am a natural leader,’’ he said.
‘‘I like teaching blokes, getting the most out of blokes, whether it is on or off the field, and I always push people to aspire to be better.’’
At just 21, the senior coaching role will be a big responsibility for Jones, but he is prepared to do whatever it takes to get the club he has played for his whole career up and running again.
‘‘I certainly was not aspiring to be a senior coach this early in my career, but it came up and I jumped at the opportunity to try and help the club,’’ he said.
Benson said several external factors had conspired against the club in recent years, leading to a position of peril.
‘‘I suppose it has been a natural losing of numbers in general, through no fault of the club’s. Just people moving away, people moving on to better leagues, and when you are not near the top it is harder to retain players because they want to go to a top side,’’ Benson said.
Despite the doom and gloom that has enveloped the club the past few years, both men believe things are starting to change for the better.
‘‘We have been averaging over 20 players at training the last few weeks,’’ Benson said.
‘‘We have had over 50 different players come through over the past two weeks, which has been great to see.’’
The most important thing for the Hoppers is being a united club.
Benson said it had always been a family-oriented institution.
‘‘We run barbecues all the time. We pride ourselves on the footballers and netballers combining so we do not become two standalone groups, because at the end of the day we are amalgamated,’’ he said.
‘‘Everyone is equal here. There is no pedestal and we pride ourselves on that.’’
One of the most pressing issues for the club right now is securing enough under-17 players.
Benson said it was crucial the club fielded a team in the age bracket.
‘‘They are really battling for an under-17s side. Unfortunately a couple of clubs within the area have come and raided us again,’’ he said.
‘‘It is really important because without the juniors you don’t have a club, especially with this new points system in place.
‘‘These boys are meant to be one -pointers and they are going to other clubs so they come back as four-pointers.’’
The chance to restore the club to its former glory is something that will drive Jones throughout 2018.
‘‘I remember when I was coming up through the juniors in the fourths, we lost the grand final in 2010 and I always looked up to the senior boys,’’ he said.
‘‘The club was great, the social aspect was awesome and at every function you had over 100 people here.
‘‘That is how I remember the club and that is the way I want it to be.’’