Aaron Harvey is Junior Coach of the Year

Aaron Harvey from the Glen Innes Celts is one of two AFL NSW/ACT’s Junior Coaches of the Year for 2021.

Harvey moved to the town on the northern tablelands with his family in 2016 and immediately set about bringing AFL to this rugby league stronghold.

In 2016, he started an after school Auskick program and managed to get more than 30 participants to each one-hour session – many of which had never kicked a footy before. The program was so popular with students that the school fitted a set of goal posts at one end of the oval.

From here, Harvey – spurred on by his wife – created the Glen Innes Celts. The club was for the Auskickers who had nowhere to play now they’d moved past primary school. “I give my wife, Robyn, all the credit for setting up the Glen Innes Celts junior club,” Harvey said. “She wanted to do it and I was a bit hesitant because I knew how much work was involved.”

The U14s mixed side played in a grand final in its inaugural season, which is testament to Harvey’s ability to teach and to continue to encourage the players. It also meant he had to come good on his promise and wear a kilt while coaching from the sidelines.

“I make it as fun as I can so hopefully more kids will get out and have a go at different sports, not just AFL,” he said. “I’ve always had the philosophy that it’s not about winning. It’s good to get the wins on the board and advance as far as you can but it’s about getting out there and getting physical.”

As the players have grown older, Harvey has kept the same formula and moved them up an age group. The side Harvey coaches now competes in the AFL North West’s U17s competition. He continues to run the Auskick program out of the local school despite having no children in it.

“I do it because I love the game. I’ve always played it and I’d watch it 24/7 if I could,” he said. “I don’t do it for the accolades. I just like getting the kids out to have a run.”

Harvey is grateful to his family and others who help with the Celts’ administrative and match day tasks. He’s proud of the club. “In five years we’ve gone from Auskick through to U17s in Glen Innes with the help of the local community and committee and other people and volunteers who have come on board.”

With AFL North Coast becoming an AFL Managed League in 2022, the Celts could grow from these humble beginnings to one of the region’s largest clubs.