Tuggeranong’s easy decision leads it to big things

Tuggeranong Valley AFC is not one of Canberra’s dominant senior clubs. However, a discussion in late 2019 which led to a massive influx of players, volunteers and families sees it on pace to join Ainslie, Eastlake, Queanbeyan and Belconnen as an AFL Canberra powerhouse in the coming seasons.

The conversation took place between presidents from Tuggeranong Valley Hawks, the senior club, and junior clubs Tuggeranong Bulldogs, Tuggeranong Lions and Calwell Swans. Ageing demography in the region meant the junior clubs were struggling to field sides across all age groups so they called for an amalgamation, combining decades of identity, history and rivalries.

“Thankfully, all the four clubs were on board,” said Tuggeranong Valley’s Senior Football Director, Ray Ghiradello. “Members overwhelmingly voted to join the four clubs into one.”

The group set an ambitious target of amalgamating the clubs for the 2020 season, leaving just a few months to rewrite a constitution, design and distribute new uniforms, and refine training schedules and locations, among countless other tasks.

According to Ghiradello, “there was a lot of work done by a lot of people,” ensuring Tuggeranong Valley’s reincarnation was ready to play in 2020, just several months after the idea was formally pitched.


Stronger together

Tuggeranong Valley’s numbers are mouth-watering for any community club. In 2021, it has around 550 juniors and 180 senior players, each with their own network of friends and family connected to the club.

“That’s one of the biggest benefits of the amalgamation,” said Ghiradello. “You’re bringing four clubs together, so the resources that it took to run those four clubs have all been combined into one.”

This translates to a groundswell of support across a range of age groups and teams. It also allows members to focus on administration and management, as well as allocating appropriate time for grant applications.

This paid off recently when the club was awarded the Bunnings Helping Hand grant for the ACT. It will use the $30,000 to build change facilities at the senior women’s ground in Kambah.

“At the moment, our women’s group are forced to get changed in the car. We’re so very grateful for the grant that will help our women’s program into the future.”

The future of the women’s program at Tuggeranong Valley is bright, with around 20 players joining the club in 2021 alone. Its senior women’s coach, Leo Lahey, is also the club’s president, meaning this booming corner of the club will get the attention it deserves in the coming years.


Looking to the future

There’s no doubt that participation means success. With more than 500 juniors playing together and six senior sides, Tuggeranong Valley is poised for finals in coming years.

Its senior men’s playing group is comprised mostly of Tuggeranong locals who grew up playing together. Without any competition between local junior clubs, the pathway is smooth and clear for today’s juniors looking to play senior footy. Players will arrive at seniors having known one another for years and with a connection to each other great teams possess.

Importantly, with the 700-strong playing group and its connected network, the club is unlikely to experience the disruption of volunteer fatigue, with more people pitching in and clear succession plans in place for the club’s executive.

There’s an air of excitement about Tuggeranong Valley, with the amalgamation revitalising the environment and making people want to play for the jumper – which recognises its four-club heritage – more than ever.

Ray Ghiradello has been around footy in Canberra since the 1980s and speaks proudly about the future for his close-knit community club: “We just look forward to what the future brings with all our kids coming through footy in the Valley.”

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