Return to the top goes through kids, says coach
WHITSUNDAY Sea Eagles president Chris Morrison knows how important it is to get the right people in the right positions, particularly at a community footy club.
It was why he was happy to sweat the small stuff, including potentially beginning pre-season without a senior coach, to wait for the right person to come along.
Thankfully, the club had a ready-made replacement for outgoing coach Ian Hodges, and he was as keen to commit as the Sea Eagles were to have him.
Darren Draper’s two-plus decades at the Sea Eagles as a player, coach and administrator will continue on when he steps in to coach the Whitsunday seniors in 2020.
Morrison described Draper as a “very talented footballer in his own right” who had an eye for talent and the ear of the Sea Eagles’ stable of impressive juniors.
“He has a very good football mind,” Morrison said.
“But the biggest thing for us is he has a very good rapport with the younger players – he’s had a lot to do with those kids who we’re trying to get back to the club.”
After last season’s mass exodus from the senior ranks, when 18 players from the 2018 premiership side departed, the club identified a need to develop and maintain its crop of juniors.
They will be the future of the Whitsunday Sea Eagles’ senior side, and Draper will be pivotal in fostering that pathway.
After years of sustained excellence, the disappointing wooden spoon campaign of last season hit everyone at the club hard.
But Draper saw the silver lining – a chance to blood the next generation of Sea Eagles – and he was adamant the club would be all the better for it.
“You don’t like having those years for your football club. It was hard, definitely,” the new coach said.
“It doesn’t make you feel all that great when your club is struggling. However I think that's when the club unites.
“We have good, local talent that has come through our juniors that have had a bit of a break (from footy).
“But we’re hopeful to get that young talent back and look to bring it back up to the standard we’re used to up here.
“We will have much better numbers this year and I believe we will be much more competitive this year, too.”
The Sea Eagles returned to pre-season training this week.
The annual pre-season carnival at Airlie Beach is scheduled for March 14.
Round 1 of the AFL Mackay A-Grade season begins the following week, March 21.
Familiar face returns to the nest in major coaching coup
THE MAN who took the Whitsunday Sea Eagles to the promised land, twice, has come home to roost.
Dual premiership-winning coach Luke Somerville will return to the club he coached to the 2017-18 AFL Mackay A-Grade premierships, next season.
Somerville will take on an assistant coach role alongside new head coach Darren Draper.
In Draper, who has 25-plus years of club passion and pride in his veins and Somerville, the man who raised the local coaching standard, the Sea Eagles have a potent one-two coaching combination.
“Invaluable,” Draper said of having Somerville in his corner next season.
“Luke was in charge when we won the last two flags – he knows what it takes to win.
“The two of us working off each other will be better than just the one.”
Club president Chris Morrison doubled down on Draper’s assessment.
“Both have been through the lows as well as the highs and are well aware of what’s required to get back to the top again,” he said.
Committed club wants to grow its footy family
A CONCERTED push to re-establish a presence in the AFL Mackay Women’s competition has Whitsunday Sea Eagles president Chris Morrison excited about the future of the club.
The Sea Eagles held three open female football development sessions prior to Christmas and returned to action yesterday.
“We want to get that team back in to give them somewhere to continue playing,” Morrison said.
“A women’s team is a priority for us to continue the development of the girls.”