Amidst the shutdown of sport during the COVID-19 pandemic many community-based sporting clubs are in survival mode, just hoping to emerge in a position to continue.
Without the support of sponsors and registrations, a number of clubs across a range of sports in Canberra have expressed concern about their ongoing viability.
However, with Australian Rules football in the Tuggeranong Valley, the opposite appears to be happening.
Far from hibernating, there have been significant developments with the amalgamation of all four clubs in the Valley.
The Tuggeranong Hawks senior club has amalgamated with three junior clubs – Tuggeranong Bulldogs, Tuggeranong Lions and Calwell Swans – and the new entity now ranges from Auskick to seniors.
The senior club has seven teams, including three women’s sides, playing in the AFL Canberra competition, while the juniors boast more than 500 registered players.
Former Tuggeranong Bulldogs and Tuggeranong Hawks president, Leo Lahey, is president of the new club, known as Tuggeranong Valley Australian Football Club (TVAFC).
Lahey says this moment has been a long time coming. “It’s been discussed for decades, but in the past few months everybody came together. There is now a really clear participation and development pathway.”
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the club had registered teams in every age group with AFL Canberra, including the reintroduction of the men’s third-grade side and the women’s under-18 Rising Stars.
“Despite the pandemic, there is a significant amount of enthusiasm in the Tuggeranong Valley for an AFL season in 2020.” says Lahey. “We are still receiving registrations despite the shutdown.”
The appointment of Jim Rice as senior coach of the men’s first-grade team has also generated excitement within the new club.
Rice, who played more than 300 first grade/NEAFL games – including more than 200 with Tuggeranong – has established an impressive resume as a coach.
He was an assistant coach at Ainslie during its AFL Canberra premiership run in the past few years, plus his role as an assistant coach for the past five years with the GWS Giants Academy.
Former Tuggeranong Hawks senior coach from 2018 and 2019, Peter Ashcroft, remains with the new entity as co-coach of the under-17s. He will be a key part of the club’s development pathway system.
The merge has been warmly welcomed by the Tuggeranong community, with local real estate agency, McIntyre Property, jumping on as one of the sponsors. The business has been a proud supporter of the Hawks, Lions and Bulldogs over the years, sponsoring many players along their AFL journey.
Jo Matters, Director of McIntyre Property, says, “It’s great to have one club to focus our energy on. We love our local community and being part of what makes Tuggeranong great.”
With so much going on off the field, the new club, which is yet to unveil its logo, is more than ready for the start of the AFL Canberra season whenever that might be.