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June 21, 2024 10:52 PM

Thrown in the deep end

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BY ALEX TIGANI

When Jono Williams set sail from his native Kalgoorlie to Muswellbrook, the auto electrician thought he was taking the biggest leap of his life.

Little did Williams realise that 11 years later in 2020, he would go down in history as the senior president of his local AFL club during the sports darkest winter.

After serving the Muswellbrook Cats as a loyal secretary in 2019, the 39-year-old admits he was ‘thrust’ into the presidency role by season’s end.

Admittedly, the co-ordination of club responsibilities during a global pandemic was not in the job description.

“I’ve been thrust into the presidency role and then all of this happens; so, it has been a challenging year for me on top of all the covid-19 stuff,” Williams told The Hunter River Times.

“Our vice president has moved to Canberra and our treasurer has a daughter with cystic fibrosis so we haven’t really had a chance to meet but we’re working together as best as we can.”

Both Muswellbrook and the Singleton Roosters have until Friday, June 26 to nominate their teams for the season which will commence on Saturday, July 17 at both senior and junior level.

The seniors will then have 12 standard rounds before a two-week finals’ series.

The grand final date has already been set for the weekend of October 17-18.

However, Williams still forecasts many challenges ahead.

“As a president there is a lot of work that goes in to get a game off the ground,” he continued.

“It has already been a pretty hectic six months not to be able to have our monthly meetings.

“Before covid-19 the Muswellbrook Hotel was filled with people door-to-door for our first event which was the ‘yabbie races’ and it was one of the biggest we had ever done.

“Everyone was so keen to follow that on with other events like our cystic fibrosis round, pride round and literally two weeks after our first event we entered the covid period.

“So, we’ll have to work out how to go about those events this year as well.”

Williams first became aware of the Cats when they welcomed 2001 Brownlow medallist and three-time Brisbane Lions premiership player Jason Akermanis for a game in 2012.

“Prior to that I didn’t even realise there was AFL in Muswellbrook,” he recalled.

“I joined soon after as a forward, we went from the Tamworth league back to this one and in 2016 we won every game then lost the grand final to Bateau Bay.

“Then the next year we lost every game until the final round and we celebrated that win for about a week on top of that.”

Last year the Cats men’s side finished fifth in the HAVAL Black Diamond Plate (the region’s second tier) with a 10-5 record.

Williams’ men celebrated a whopping 158-point victory over Singleton’s second grade line-up as well as a nail-biting nine-point thriller over The Entrance Bateau Bay.

Cats supporters will hope both sides (men’s and women’s) can use that momentum going into the shortened 2020 season.

“Soccer from all accounts is no good and rugby league we weren’t sure if they were going ahead so once we got word that we were allowed to start training at groups of ten we’ve had new faces,” he explained.

“Whether or not some of our new faces stick around past July 1 when some other sports return well, we’ll wait and see.

“But when I see some of these guys waist their talent at rugby league I just say ‘you’re playing the wrong sport mate’ and try and get them across.

“A couple of years ago I had a few apprentices from work come and have a kick.

“One was a winger and goal-kicker for the Rams and he just picked up Aussie rules like that, he could run and kick it from 55m.”

THE ROAD BACK

  • June 22 – AFL Hunter Central Coast staff return
  • June 26 – Team nominations due
  • July 17 – Junior and senior football returns
  • October 17-18 – Grand final weekend

*This story was published on Friday, June 19 2020.

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