It’s been 6 long years since a Colts team has run out onto Coolbinia Oval, but that is all about to change.
Through hard work, and the forging of strong partnerships, the Coolbinia AFC will return to the Perth Football League Colts competition in season 2022.
The path that has led to this positive outcome was identified as a priority area a number of years ago. Club President Ben Cameron said, "It was mission-critical to the sustainability of our club that a Colts side was reintroduced and we set out with a long term plan to try and achieve that."
Achieving this goal did not come easily. The club experienced a number of failed attempts along the way and it was clearly time to think outside of the box.
Fortune had it, the seeds to their future success were beginning to sprout right on their doorstep.
A short drop punt away, the Coolbinia Bombers JFC and Mt Hawthorn JFC had been building a strong relationship with a formalised structure to field merged “Coolbinia/Mt Hawthorn Demons” teams in all Metro Central Year 11 and Year 12 competitions from 2017 onwards.
Coolbinia JFC President Kyla Tilbury-Kegg said, "The Coolbinia-Mt Hawthorn Demons partnership is critical in providing security and stability to our players as they enter their upper youth years. This is a time when many clubs experience a large reduction of numbers, for various reasons, including the clash we face with school or PSA sport".
"Prior to the MOU the viability of any team in these age groups often became a case of “survival of the fittest” with clubs fighting to entice players from their neighbours. Through our formal alignment, we have thankfully ended that, as well as provided surety to players their pathway can continue right up until Year 12", Tilbury-Kegg said.
With the junior pathway locked in place, the Junior and Senior Clubs began further exploring opportunities to strengthen their relationships.
This culminated in a historic partnership and MOU being signed between the Coolbinia Bombers Junior Football Club and the Coolbinia Amateurs Football Club heading into season 2020.
Central components of the MOU ensured the Amateur club would provide support to the Junior club, as well as discourage youth players transitioning to the senior program, before they had completed the junior pathway.
Coolbinia Juniors would in turn actively encourage and facilitate the building of relationships with their highest aged youth teams, to encourage player transition to the seniors.
Metro Central Regional Development Council Board Member and Ex-President of Coolbinia Bombers JFC Rob Geersen said, "In formalising this agreement a key element to the success we are seeing today, was due to the Amateurs providing the coaching resources for what was at the time the Year 11 team. All parties went in knowing this was not going to be a quick fix, and there were no guarantees."
"Over the following 2 years, the seniors hosted the team at certain club events and created a positive environment for both the players and families. With the club's Senior players Dan Allsop and Jordy Moore leading the team as coaches, they built a strong bond and earnt their player's trust".
"Today the clubs, the players and football in general are reaping the success of that commitment", Geersen said.
Come Round 1 of 2022, coach Jordy Moore will again proudly lead his team of young men, representing the Coolbinia AFC Colts for the first time since 2015.
The WAFC and Metro Central RDC commend all parties on this outcome and strongly encourage other clubs to enter into discussions with the intent to establish similar pathway MOU’s. This has numerous benefits to both the Junior and Senior Football communities and importantly ensures that players stay connected to the game.
When asked what final advice they would give other clubs seeking to strengthen their own pathways, Coolbinia AFC President Ben Cameron said, "We’ve learnt the hard way the continuation of a team is far easier than it’s reintroduction. If you have a team, do whatever you can to keep it in existence. However, if you don't currently have a colts group, take the time over two or three years to build those relationships and the critical pathway from juniors to the senior club".
"It will take a lot of work, but the final reward is well worth the effort", Cameron said.
With a current squad of 30 Colts players and a further two “Coolbinia/ Mt Hawthorn Demons” teams eagerly following in their footsteps, the future of Junior and Colts football in the region looks bright.