The Lions name a familiar eight-man leadership group.
By Tennyson Tinning
Coburg Football Club has announced its leadership group for the 2020 season, with two fresh faces joining the eight-man group.
The two new members are Jacob Ballard and Tom Silvestro, were recruited to the Lions from the Richmond VFL team and will bring a wealth of experience and guidance to the leadership team.
Jacob Ballard Tom Silvestro
The two new additions join the members of Coburg’s 2019 leadership team in co-captains Ryan Exon and Peter McEvoy and vice-captain Jesse Corigliano, supported by Sam Lowson, Mitch Podhajski and Luke Bunker in the group.
Pete McEvoy Ryan Exon
Coburg General Manager Sebastian Spagnuolo said the continuity of the leadership group provides steadiness to the club as major transitions are made off-field.
“The club has had some major off-field changes since the end of the 2019 season: a new senior coach and coaching staff group, a new club President and new support staff,” Spagnuolo said.
“We are so proud that the team’s on-field leadership has achieved great consistency this year with all six of the 2019 leadership group still in a leadership position in 2020. We are thrilled to then add two really experienced individuals such as Ballard and Silvestro.
“Alignment is something we are achieving here at Coburg and this pre-season has proved that. From the club’s Board and Executive, to the coaching group, to our volunteers and to the playing group, we have achieved great alignment.
“The on-field leaders have definitely played their role in alignment by supporting club initiatives and driving great standards within the playing group.”
“Our leadership group was due to to be announced at our 2020 season launch on March 27th but given the current circumstances and delay to the 2020 season, we had to cancel that event. We had a decision to make as to whether we announce the leadership group now or not, and we decided that the work that our on field leaders did between November 2019 and March 2020 and will continue to do even whilst in isolation should be recognised.
Hence today’s announcement. These are the guys that are keeping their teammates spirits high, now more than ever their leadership qualities are vital.”
Senior coach Andrew Sturgess said he is “really happy” with the leadership group.
“It’s a really cohesive group who are committed to getting the best out of the club,” Sturgess said.
To reach a decision on the leadership group, the players were asked to vote in a 5-4-3-2-1 system. Sturgess says this format allows the players to have more ownership of their direction.
“For them to be voted in, they’ve got a level of respect among their peers. But because, they have been voted in by their peers, there is also a level of responsibility,” he said.
The leadership team’s makeup suggests the playing group value experience but aren’t afraid to give responsibility to younger team members.
The co-captains are Coburg’s two most travelled players: Exon (26 years old) has played a total of 80 VFL games, 51 of those with Coburg, while McEvoy (28) has appeared 64 times in VFL, 57 for the Lions.
Making up the leadership group’s youthful side are Bunker and Podhajski (21), playing 38 and 25 games for Coburg respectively.
Luke Bunker Mitch Podhajski
Corigliano (23) and Lowson (24), 52 and 34 games respectively, both bring high expectations to the leadership group after each experiencing break-out seasons last year. Corigliano was selected as one of two Lions in the 2019 VFL Team of the Year, while Lowson was in contention for selection in the AFL mid-season draft before an untimely ankle injury derailed his chances.
Jesse Corigliano Sam Lowson
The new additions to the leadership group, Ballard (26) and Silvestro (24), bring plenty of VFL exposure with them, having played 78 and 68 games respectively.
Sturgess believes each individual carry unique attributes with their leadership approaches.
“McEvoy is the ultra-professional. He’s diligent in his preparation and sets really good standards for others to follow a structure,” he said.
“Exon’s a really selfless player and is a bubbly, funny guy to be around. He plays with determination and he’s a really good leader by actions on-field, but has a personable side to him off-field.
“Corigliano has grown in leaps-and-bounds in his time at the club. He was a first year a player here in 2018 and wasn’t able to get a game in Strathmore’s senior team let alone our development team. This position is a testament to him and the resilience he’s shown over time.
“Bunker has a fantastic football brain and he’s really honest. He’s different to others in the leadership group in the way that he thinks. He’s the one in the group that will challenge others and ensure the players are getting the best out of themselves all the time, which is something you need in the group.
“Podhajski is an emerging leader and being in the leadership group as a 20-year-old in his second full season is pretty remarkable. He’s mature beyond his years in the way he prepares and his hunger for improvement.
“Lowson’s football has improved from being in the group, which is evident from the status he reached in nearly getting drafted last season. Being in the leadership group, you begin to think differently. You don’t always think what I need to do to get better, you think bigger picture about what others need, and I think Sam did that last year.
“Our two new inclusions are Ballard and Silvestro, are very different in their personalities. Ballard is a clear and visible leader. Contrastingly, Silvestro’s reserved and quiet in nature. But he’s tough, courageous and he’s a brilliant leader by action.”
Exon said it is a “huge honour” to be voted by the team to co-lead the club again in 2020.
“I’m really keen to work with [McEvoy] and the rest of the leadership group to continue what we started last year,” Exon said.
“I definitely think the club has an exciting future and I’m stoked to be a part of it.”
McEvoy said he is “incredibly humbled” that his teammates see himself and Ryan as the leaders of Coburg, particularly after his rollercoaster off-season period.
“I had such a unique pre-season with ankle surgery 10 days before our first training session, along with my wedding and honeymoon during summer,” McEvoy said.
“I think this unique position for me during pre-season has further taught me and our group the incredible leadership value and potential for team success that lies in creating a welcoming family environment, having genuine conversations, setting professional standards, and developing friendships.
“[Exon] and I are excited to have an excellent and diverse group of leaders around us to help propel our group forward in 2020. I’m very positive about where our club is positioned leading into this season, there’s so much genuine belief, drive and passion for success within our entire club.”