The League's newest club, Lyndhurst Lightning, was accepted into the SFNL in late October and will play its first ever season of senior football in Division 3 in 2016.
Previously only a junior entity, many months of hard work, planning and recruiting went into not only establishing this brand new senior club, but also ensuring it's sustainability in future years.
SFNL Media Officer Will Hunter spoke to Lyndhurst's inaugural senior coach, Paddy Cooke, about how the start-up club came to be, the challenges they faced in establishing the club and his expectations in his side's debut season.
WILL HUNTER: Congratulations on your appointment, mate. You must be looking forward to getting stuck into the season proper?
PADDY COOKE: Yeah, definitely. We’re coming along nicely. There’s been lots of hard work that we’ve gone through but numbers are up and, yeah, it’s very exciting.
There is obviously a lot of work that must be done to establish a club from the ground up. What were some of the challenges you and the team faced in getting the club’s senior entity up and running?
Probably the biggest challenge was getting people across and committed. We’ve had lots and lots of interest but the hardest thing is once you get someone there, keeping them. A lot of people will come for one or two sessions and disappear so just keeping that interest and excitement in the place.
That can happen at a lot of clubs though.
I would expect so. But I think because we are a start-up club we don’t have the base of other clubs where you’ve got the committed 30 or 40 blokes that will be there regardless. We’ve had to completely start that from scratch, so yeah that’s been a big challenge.
How does it sit with you to be a part of history as the first ever senior coach of the Lyndhurst Football Netball Club?
To be honest I haven’t really thought about it too much. I’ve just been head down, bum up trying to get into it. I’ll probably think about it once it’s all done and you know, if we can create something sustainable then that will be something I can sit back on and reflect on, but at the moment I’m just trying to get it all done.
That part of Melbourne is a massive growth area and the junior club is now well established. How are you guys going for numbers on the track in the seniors?
In November we were getting that 20-25 mark and when we got to December we were getting 30-35 and that’s where we are at now. We’re getting 30-35 at every training session so they’re really good numbers. As I said, it’s exciting. I think we’ve had over 70 blokes, just off the top of my head, that have come through and trained, but a lot of those have done maybe three or four sessions and then not returned. But yeah, we’re getting a consistent base. We’ve probably got 20 blokes who hit up every training session, so were getting close to where we need to be, but it’s still a work in progress.
They’re very encouraging signs. And of those players that have signed on, how many have been Lyndhurst juniors?
None. The juniors started five years ago and that was just with Under 9s so they’ve got Under 17s for the first time this year, which is the oldest group to come through. The Under 17s are the ones who started as the first group (of Under 9s).
That will hold you in good stead in the years to come.
Yeah that’s where the committee has done a fantastic job where they’ve had forethought and vision to see that the juniors needed somewhere to go. They’ve set it up perfectly. Our Under 17s are bottom age, so next year they’ll be (in) Under 17s again and then they’ll have year of Under 19s and then they’ll be able to transfer straight into seniors. They’ve set it up so the club will be established in the seniors and the juniors will be able to just transition nicely straight into a senior group.
The Lightning are a bit of an unknown quantity for a lot of punters this year. Who are some of the standout players that we should look out for?
There’s a young guy Jeremy Jakupi. He’s a big young lad, comes from Cranbourne and he’s got a lot of potential, could really be anything. There’s another guy, Cory Willshire, another boy from Cranbourne that’s young and could really have a lot of potential for us. We’ve got David Ford, who’s come across from Springvale (Districts). He’s played a decent standard of football at Noble Park and at Springvale and he’s gonna be fantastic for us with on-field knowledge. We’ve got Jake Ward who’s come across from Dandenong, who is just an inspirational leader. He’s one of those guys who is just constantly yapping away and getting the boys motivated so he’s going to be huge for us. Whether he can get a kick or not is a different story but he’ll keep the boys interested! (laughs)
It sounds like you’ve got a pretty young list?
We’re very young. I’d say the majority of our blokes would be between 18 and 22 (years old). So we’re really young and that’s a really exciting prospect. Like, it might be a tough year for us this year, but the development going forward is going to be fantastic and there is a huge amount of potential there for what can happen.
What are your goals for season 2016? Is about chasing immediate on-field success or more about establishing the club in SFNL territory?
Nah, definitely establishing the club. We could push for immediate on-field success but unless we’ve got a culture, it’s not sustainable. So it more about building a culture, building a place where people want to be and then hopefully sustained success will follow.
What can we expect from Lyndhurst this year?
Competitiveness. We’re gonna be a hard, competitive side. We’re gonna give everything we’ve got and fight games out.
Paddy Cooke (left) will take the reins of a young Lyndhurst side in their debut season.