Half Century Milestone brought up a sign of resilience for Danny Younan.
However, while that may be the case, one current leader brings up a minor career milestone.
And it comes in the form of popular forward Danny Younan.
On Saturday against Collingwood at the Holden Centre, the ever popular forward and leadership group member notches up the 50 game milestone of his senior VFL career, a well-deserved milestone for what many consider to be the heart and soul of the Lions currently.
And while it’s taken a considerable amount of time than expected to reach the half century, it’s a real testament to a player who has worked hard to achieve the best possible outcome for himself, having done it the hard way.
Playing his junior football with EDFL side Taylors Lakes, Younan built up an impressive playing resume. An under 18 B Grade Premiership in 2009 after a standout season saw him win a place on the Western Jets squad for 2010. Although he never managed a game for the Burbank Oval based side, he played a key part in the first ever senior premiership team for Taylors Lakes- in the 2010 B Grade (now division 1) Premiership as its youngest member of the squad. Previously, he was involved in numerous EDFL Junior Representative squads.
“I loved my days at Taylors Lakes, even love going back down there now and speaking to most of the boys I have played in premierships with. It’s a special feeling. My Jets days are something I really took for granted as I never had the commitment or desire to play at highest level back then.”
While he found the going at A Grade tough in 2011 (Taylors Lakes were relegated back down straight away), it was enough for him to receive an invite for preseason training ahead of the 2012 season. Adam Potter- the clubs senior coach at the time who also began his football at Taylors Lakes had kept an eye on Younan for years, and was encouraged by his coaches to give it a go.
“My senior coach Steve Burns (now coaching Hillside) was the one who was really pushing me to go to the highest level I could, he believed in me and still does to this day. We speak on a weekly basis but it wasn’t until I had bumped into Adam Potter, I guess we then got speaking from there and next thing you know I was trying out to get a contract.”
While he didn’t manage senior footy in his first season at the club, largely due to the alignment with Richmond and other established players occupying the remaining spots, he played a key role in the Development League side with 22 goals from 21 games- which also consisted of seven goals early in the season. While the events of the 2012 season off the field overshadowed what transpired for the club on field, he kicked three crucial goals in the Grand Final in a Premiership win for the club.
“I just remember our development team having such a great bond, our senior team wasn’t having much success but I guess we were all feeding off the fact we could win a flag and we did! Which was another special moment.”
And while the end of the 2012 season resulted in well documented key personnel departing the club, Younan would stay loyal to the cause, and it would also appear he would get a deserved crack at Senior footy for 2013. It wasn’t to be. An ACL injury suffered within the sides first practice match for the season would end it before it even began.
“I think like most things in life anything that comes your way has a purpose behind it and the Knee reco for me was an eye opener in many ways which taught me a lot of life lessons in itself. I had one little mental breakdown but after that I promised myself I'd only look forward and be positive, and as grueling as the rehab process was I actually enjoyed the whole process. Had great support around me the whole time.”
However, it was not all doom and gloom for him. Whether it be there to support his teammates or to continue his treatment for rehab, Younan would always stick around at the club in his spare time supporting his teammates, who he considers now among his closest mates at the club, and on match day would have a responsibility of game day rotations and acting as runner later on in the year in a bid to fast track his rehabilitation. He would also begin the well renowned club media segment ‘Coburg TV,’ where he would be the host, alongside former team mate and good mate Jake Anderson. As a result, his support throughout the year within the club saw him awarded the Graham Douglas Award as the Best Club Person- winning admiration among the club’s hierarchy for his efforts to stick around and turn up to every training session whilst being unable to play.
“I Was pretty surprised when I had won it, players don’t normally get that award at the club anymore, but I guess I enjoy putting smiles on people’s faces, makes me feel good. Coburg TV was a just little thing I brought to the club and ended up getting great response, particularly from players and parents who have seen their sons come down from different states or the out the country way, and make them feel a part of it.”
The 2014 season could not come quick enough for Younan. A new coach in Peter German, a new era as Coburg were once again the Lions and non-aligned. And it meant he would be given the best opportunity possible for an arguably belated senior debut. Named in the leadership group, he managed a respectable 20 goals from 17 matches. In what was a trying year for the club that exceeded the expectations that they wouldn’t win a game in either competition from most critics, Younan was far from satisfied with his personal outcome on his form.
“2014 was a scary but exiting start to my senior career especially coming back from the knee you go through a lot of mental battles particularly when you’re not playing as good as what you would like. But I learned what I needed to do week in week out to get my body right, and still am to this day.”
However, while the club’s appointment of German as mentor for the club was a massive coup, it has been fair to say that Younan, and his team mates for that matter are more than grateful for having him as a coach. “We are very lucky to have someone who is so passionate and diligent about what they do, he puts a lot of faith in not just me but everyone that puts the jumper on week to week. He puts in a heap of time and effort behind closed doors which not many people even or players would really know about but he does it out of pure love and enjoyment to see us grow.”
And German challenged him over the following pre-season to use the disappointments of 2014 to spur him on for the 2015 season, with stern recruiting protocols and procedures being put in place compared to the exact same time 12 months ago. “2015 I worked super hard over preseason because I was pretty disappointed with how my finish to 2014 was, but knowing there was a few little small forwards that could potentially take my spot was my biggest motivation. Germo had reminded of that too.”
And it did. After signs of a strong pre-season throughout the practice match campaign, the results showed in the big round one win over Richmond- kicking three goals, and German would describe Younan as the sides most influential player on the day. His season vastly improved as it went on, and it resulted in him taking out the clubs goalkicking award with 24 goals. However, straight after the season had finished, Younan went straight in for shoulder surgery, having injured it with only a few weeks remaining in the season. “Shoulder surgery was just another setback, I was kind of lucky in some ways that it had happened the last game of the season, but a lot of credit would have to go to Derek and the physio staff for getting me up to scratch come round one.”
Despite the loss of key leaders over the 2015/16 off season, there was a sense of excitement brewing around Piranha Park-a new season, new incoming talent but most notably the recruit of fellow forward Ahmed Saad. “He’s been a great addition to the footy club especially because the route he had taken to get where he is today something that myself and he’s teammates really admire.”
And while this year could be seen as another year of progress for the Lions, Younan happily admitted that there is still a way to go, especially with the early season results of 2016. “We had a pretty good draw but obviously shot ourselves in the foot with our first 5 games but I feel like that start to the year will hold us in good stead going forward. Mainly because what we had learnt in key moments of games.”
However, according to him, the future is nothing but bright for the club, especially with all of the incoming talent coming through. “We have a lot of young guys who are extremely young and talented players and I respect them in so many ways because for the fact they have come to a VFL club and laid in all out in the line to become the best player they can be, it might take them a few years to understand the requirement’s but if we can keep a good chunk of players together there will be good times ahead.”
Already re-signed for the 2017 season, he was also more than happy for it to have already be sorted. “It was an easy decision for me as I more so wanted to get it out of the way pretty early in the season as I know what my intentions are.”
While the half century will be officially reached come Saturday afternoon, he hasn’t quite yet given much thought towards 100 games yet. “As I have had footy taken away from me before. I appreciate every game. I guess my 50th is first aim, just want that to get out the way.
Nick Carnell, who captained the club for seven seasons from 2009-2015 and played alongside Younan in his last few seasons, couldn’t speak any more highly of him. “Danny possesses all the natural leadership qualities of a future captain of the Coburg Football Club. His maturity and ability to establish an inclusive environment allows younger players to experience the dedication required to succeed at VFL Football. Danny has overcome many challenges during his time at Coburg and to reach fifty games is testament to his character and loyalty.”
While Younan joins a host of many other players past and presently to have managed 50 or more games for the club, he too has enjoyed his time at Piranha Park and can’t wait for what the future holds. “The friendships I have made along the way during my time at the club will be something I’ll be forever grateful for and I have met some special people along the way, people I will call friends for a lifetime.”
And for a much respected figure around the club, his team mates no doubt will want to bring up a win for him in his milestone match, to top off a memorable occasion.