Lions lock away women’s team leaders

By Julia Montesano

The Coburg Football Club is delighted to announce its newly appointed football department for the club’s inaugural senior women’s team.

In what will be the club’s 130th year in 2021, it is extremely exciting to be embarking on this new chapter at Piranha Park. Coburg’s women’s program is shaping up to be focused on community, with every staff member dedicated to allowing players to get the most out of themselves, both on and off the field, in this historic journey. Meet the football department team below.

Senior Coach- Liam Cavanagh

Cavanagh has had coaching experience at Strathmore Football Club as the senior men’s playing assistant, assistant coach in the Mores’ senior women’s program, and head coach of their under 18 girls team. He has also spent time playing in the VFL as part of Box Hill in 2016. Ahead of leading Coburg’s inaugural Senior Women’s team, he is extremely excited about the journey that lies ahead at Piranha Park.

“With any of these things, coaching isn’t really about me and it’s just exciting to be a part of something bigger than myself,” he said.

“It’s not often that a new part of a club starts up, so I guess the most exciting piece for me is being able to build something that hopefully lasts 130 years like the male side of footy has.”

Liam Cavanagh – Women’s Senior Coach

“I think it’s a really cool opportunity. I think Coburg has a really great sense of their own community and it’s going to be a really great little project.”

Assistant Coach (backline)- Jessie Chester

Chester is a pioneer of women’s football at the Point Cook Centrals Football Club, having developed the female football pathway at the club with under 15’s, under 18’s, and senior women’s sides all on the field. Not only did she develop the pathway, but she also spent some time coaching the club’s inaugural girls’ teams and captained the Senior Women’s team.

Her coaching experience also extends to NAB League level, having spent time coaching the Western Jets youth girls’ team.

In a humorous turn of events, she will be working under fellow girls’ interleague coaching rival Liam Cavanagh. Chester previously coached the WRFL interleague team while Cavanagh was on the other side of the fence with the EDFL’s team.

Chester also boasts experience at the North Melbourne Football Club as a Development Officer, and has been working with the Western Region Football League in their Football Operations department.

When deciding whether to join the Coburg Football Club, Chester said she didn’t have to do much tossing and turning.

“Coburg just felt like a perfect fit for me,” she said. “Everyone is so eager and passionate about women’s footy. It was a no brainer for me.”

Assistant Coach (midfield)- Blake Wadley

Wadley is the ultimate club man. He has played at Beaumaris at both under 19 and senior levels, and also spent time coaching their Senior Women’s team in 2019. He also helped the club out where he could, spending time as a runner and on the board. Wadley also has experience coaching in the junior ranks, after being at the helm of Cheltenham’s Under 17 boys’ team in 2017. Upon joining the ranks at Coburg Football Club, Wadley was intrigued by the club’s infectious community spirit.

“Coburg is such a grassroots type of football club and everyone at the club seems to love each other,” he said. “I look forward to developing my coaching skills and getting some experience with coaching. I’m always learning.”

Assistant Coach (forwards)- Jason Quinn

Before arriving at Piranha Park, Quinn applied his trade with the West Footscray Football Club’s women’s side. Before this, he played a huge part in getting Williamstown’s VFLW side off the ground as a member of their coaching group for over two years. He will be a valuable asset for the Lions, as he has already had experience in developing a new female football program.

“The enticement (of joining Coburg) was getting another side off the ground again,” Quinn said. “(The Lions are) a real community-based club, it’s something they want to be and something they know they want to be.”

Development Coach- Joel Lovett

Lovett’s coaching journey started with humble beginnings, spending time at the helm of some of Hurstbridge’s junior sides. From there, he was fortunate enough to land a role with the Collingwood Football Club as a coach in its Next Generation Academy.

In 2020, Lovett took on a role to head back to his local football club as its under 19’s coach, before their season got cruelly cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Lovett is extremely grateful for his opportunity at Coburg Football Club and is looking forward to getting started in his new role in 2021.

“When I saw the role at Coburg, I saw it as a really good opportunity to get involved with the women’s program,” he said. “I really enjoy the development side of things and am really impressed with how the women’s game is going.”

Head of Player Development- Adrian Minniti

Minniti has spent most of his life running around on the field for the Keilor Football Club. As a dedicated clubman, he also spent some time coaching at the club.

Minniti then landed a role with AFL Victoria as a Game Development Officer. After this, he joined Coburg Football Club last year as its Female Football Coordinator. In 2020, he has decided to take on the role of Women’s Head of Player Development as his passion lies with coaching and developing the next generation of stars.

“Football’s a pretty important pathway where you can not only learn a skill, but you can learn a lot about yourself,” Minniti said. “I think that’s what really drew me to wanting to do a development role.”

“Game plans and structures are fantastic, and you’ve got to have them, but I get my kicks out of a player being able to commit to something with confidence. It’s awesome to see them learn and develop a skill rather than look at the stats on game day,” he said.

High Performance Manager- Hugh Mason

Mason knows what it takes to succeed at a high level of football, having spent some time playing with the Sandringham Dragons and completing a pre-season with the Sandringham Zebras.

He also has a sports science background, having completed his studies at Deakin University.

In what will be of benefit to the club, Mason already has experience in strength and conditioning at the VFLW level, having spent some time within North Melbourne’s program. He hopes to ensure Coburg’s female players are able to meet the demands of the sport.

“To me, it’s really exciting that this proud club has its first women’s side,” Mason said. “I’m a big believer in everyone having the opportunity they want, and I just think it’s cool that we can give the chance to a lot of girls that want to play football but might not have had the chance in the past.

“Personally, I’ll get access to a really high-end program at Coburg, which is good.”

Football Operations Assistant – Alex Baggio

Baggio comes to Coburg with a wealth of experience, having spent the past two years at Richmond Football Club as part of its VFLW and AFLW programs. In 2018, he helped out the VFLW coaches with managing statistics and assisting with technology. A year later, he expanded on this role by playing a part in recruiting and talent identification for the Club’s inaugural women’s team. Baggio will also draw upon these skills at Coburg.

He has also just completed his first year as part of the property team in the Tigers’ AFLW team. Baggio is aware of Coburg’s “rich history”, but is excited to embark on a brand new journey with the Club’s Senior Women’s team.

“It’s basically a brand new club and I’m really excited to build it from the ground up and leave my own mark on it,” he said. “I just think it’s really exciting to be a part, and such a big part, of something like this.”

Training Assistant- Ruzena May

May is a welcome addition to Coburg, having played football for 18 years. Since pulling on the boots when she was just four years old, May has spent time at Heathmont, Clayton as well as Endeavour Hills, and was set to play and coach for her hometown side, Berwick this year before COVID-19 forced the season to come to a close before it even began.

May was drawn to join the Coburg Football Club in 2021 because of its proud history.

“They’re a team that’s been around for nearly 130 years and are really established with a core family,” she said. “I really enjoy the community aspect that Coburg has and I’m really passionate about women’s football so I can’t wait to get started.”

To ensure you’re getting all of your Lions news as it comes to hand – subscribe to The Roar newsletter here: https://bit.ly/3hkrCLQ

Please also like and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for all club updates.