FOOTY'S FINEST: Whitsunday Sea Eagles Kevin Fancke and Swisse Best Off Ground finalist Darren Jackson.
FOOTY'S FINEST: Whitsunday Sea Eagles Kevin Fancke and Swisse Best Off Ground finalist Darren Jackson. Shannen McDonald

Footy fave now a national favourite

A PASSION for footy drives his commitment to the sport and the people in it, and has now led to him being recognised for his work on a national level.

Whitsunday Sea Eagles AFL Club coach and volunteer Darren Jackson was listed as a top 10 finalist in the 2019 Swisse Best Off Ground.

Almost 1000 nominations were received for the national competition that recognises footy's unsung heroes.

Nominated by fellow coach and friend Kevin Fancke, Jackson, who isn't one to be the centre of attention, said he backed how the competition recognised the work behind grassroots footy.

"I was actually a little bit shocked when I found out I was nominated and didn't really want to make too much of a fuss about it,” Jackson said.

"It's great there is that recognition for all those people who do a lot of work around Australia for the competition.”

Fancke has been working alongside Jackson at the Sea Eagles for more than six years but this is the first time he decided to nominate someone for the Best Off Ground.

He said filling out the application was one of the easiest things he'd done.

"I couldn't think of anyone more deserving, it was a no- brainer,” Fancke said.

"He's the first one out there marking the lines and the last one to leave, hosing down the bar.

"He definitely doesn't get the recognition he deserves for all his work and commitment around the club.”

Jackson has now been in the Airlie Beach area for 21 years and has spent his time here tied to the Whitsunday club.

Having always played footy, Jackson moved on to coach during a two-year stint in Maroochydore.

On his return to the Whitsundays, Jackson began coaching the Sea Eagles first women's side for two years before taking on the Under-14s and Auskick.

Jackson played in the SANFL for Port Adelaide under the father-son rule in the Under-17s and Under-19s and now his two sons have followed in his path, both playing for South Adelaide.

Jackson now shares his years of experience with the junior stars of local footy.

"I love coaching because of the satisfaction of seeing people gain skills and improving,” Jackson said.

"It's not just skills in footy, but life skills, commitment - especially in the kids, it can teach them there is more to life than just themselves,” he said.