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FEATURE ARTICLE: Creating Culture in the Borough Women’s Team

Opportunity, belief, mateship, tradition, pride and unity are only a few of the intrinsic values Harold Hetherton is bringing to the girls of the Borough. Returning back to the club he captained in the early 90’s, Hetherton is sharing the Port Melbourne spirit amongst a new and exciting generation of players. Late last year he was appointed the coach of the Port Melbourne Borough Women’s team, and in a short space of time he has set about cultivating not only a successful team, but a valuable extension to the established Borough family.

Having had his own football career cut short with a debilitating back injury “H” as he is affectionately known has returned to the club he loves to share his passion for the game with an eager, amazing, and talented group of young women who have instantaneously become family. “They have made me feel so welcome, it’s like I never left. They have embraced me and I have embraced them too, like they are my own kids, they are rippers, they are fantastic”.

Having attended a few of the women’s football games last year, and offering his opinions on their growth, Hetherton was appointed coach at the end of last season. He along with his partner Kylie who is the Team Manager are establishing an inclusive family atmosphere amongst the girls, and working hard to not only produce a solid team on the field but amazing individuals off.

“Down here we are big on culture, and we want our girls to not just be good players, but better people off the field”, stated Hetherton. “We really want them to be close, and the closer they are the better the team will be, we are already seeing that evolve, it has been fantastic to watch them grow in such small amount of time, and that growth will continue to develop throughout the year”.

Port Melbourne’s women’s team was only established a year ago, and having been met with some traditionalist opposition to start with, Hetherton believes that his girls will contribute positively and significantly to the fabric of the proud club.

“I think certainly the older brigade at Port have certainly found it hard to have a women’s team. I am sure as little as five years ago if you said there was going to be a women’s team to the supporters they would think you were crazy”, he said. “I am however 100% sure that not long into the season, if we can get a few wins on the board the greater supporter base will embrace our team because we are Port Melbourne, and that is what I want to get across to the whole of the football club, come and have a look at us because we are Port Melbourne, come and embrace us, as these girls with do us proud”.

As with all who came before him and after, the pride in pulling on the sacred Borough guernsey will not be lost amongst his tight knit team. Throughout the season Hetherton will be inviting many Port Melbourne stalwarts to the girls’ training sessions to share their Borough experiences, their football expertise and to talk to them about the importance of belonging to the club.

“I will be inviting a lot of the guys I played footy with to speak to the girls about what it means to wear a Port Melbourne jumper, and how it’s an honour to wear that jumper, and I want the girls to fully understand that, and to respect the rich history and culture of the club”.

Hetherton had the girls on the track early this pre-season with them commencing training last October in preparation for the 2019 Season. Working predominantly on their skill base, he has seen a dramatic improvement amongst the group in the last six months.

“We started in October and trained once a week, focusing mainly on skills and game sense, and as we progressed we could see their skill base lifting and heading on that upward curve. Post-Christmas we started back in January and went to two nights and I have continued to challenge them, and every time I challenge them they step up, they have been fantastic. We have seen such a markable improvement, they are thriving, absolutely thriving, they are loving it. It is fantastic”.

One of Hetherton’s greatest achievements to date is the unification and consolidation of the team spirit. He is developing a group of young women who continually display respect and humility to each other, to their wider team and towards their opposition.

“What I want them to understand is that the friendships they will create through football they will have for the rest of their lives. You can’t get what you get out of footy through any other sport, I want them to understand that we go to war every Saturday, that there will be blood, sweat and tears, but no matter how hard the battle is they are in it together, and they will have each other’s backs no matter what. And along with that mateship we are building belief, both in themselves as individuals and in the team as a supportive group. If you give them the opportunity, and you give them that belief, and they know you have their back, they will be a real force to be reckoned with”.

Hetherton’s leadership, belief in his team and support has not been lost on the players. Speaking on behalf of the team, two of the Borough’s senior players, Maegan Harrison and Rebecca Marshall are full of praise for their new coach.

“He has really brought us together”, said Harrison. “Last year was a rough year and he has come in and made us feel like a team, he has got us to love footy again. Last year half of us couldn’t kick properly to be honest, and now every girl is hitting a target and getting better. Since Harold arrived it has become like a big family, there is just a lot of love. Everyone loves each other and we all get around each other, and he brought that feeling to the team”.

Marshall reiterates this and believes that the time and effort Hetherton has taken to get to know each of the girl’s individually has had a powerful and positive effect on the playing group.

“He has taken the time to get to know the girls, not just in a footy sense, but he has got to know about us all personally, and he commits and he rings us all and communicates to all of us, we have never had that before”, states Marshall.

“Everyone plays for him, when you have a good leader you want to play for that leader. He is just a legend, he is an inspirator and a motivator, and he has brought his own family here to be involved, and having that family feeling down here is very special.”

With the start of the 2019 season fast approaching, and with the entire team responding to, and continually learning from their coach the enthusiasm amongst the group and the support staff is palatable.

Under Hetherton’s guidance there is a true sense of belief; belief in each other, belief in themselves, belief in the Borough and belief in success. With Hetherton at the helm the season is set to be a memorable one.

Article: Sarah Manton.

Image: Emily Fraser-Ison.

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