Young president is leading the way

Young leader: Morwell Football-Netball Club president Michael Stobbart took on the top job this year at the age of just 31. Photograph: Liam Durkin



IT is said the youth are our future leaders, but some are leading the way right now.

Morwell Football-Netball Club has flipped the usual job description for club president on its head, entrusting the responsibility on Michael Stobbart, a man barely into his 30s.

The youngster, relative to the usual age for a football-netball club president, stepped up to the top job after being sounded out from within the Tigers’ ranks, and is now believed to be the youngest ever president in Morwell FNC history.

“When I was approached for this year it was a bit of a shock, but also an honour to be accepted, it is a privilege, it is a great club in the Latrobe Valley,” Mr Stobbart said.

“He (the committee member) said “hear me out, but what are your thoughts on taking over as president?” It was pretty much you can do as little or as much work as you want. They’ve got a great committee, Paul (previous president Paul Spagnolo) has been great in the handover, then it was ‘let me have a think about it’, talk to the partner, then I caught up with Daryl Couling, Wade Presley who are past presidents, had a good chat to Paul about it all and then took it on.

“Definitely didn’t envisage it at (age) 31.”

With Morwell also appointing a young senior coach in Boyd Bailey this season (28) the concept of having a president around the same age factored into Mr Stobbart’s decision to accept a nomination at the club’s annual meeting.

“I spoke to a couple of senior players, I spoke to Boyd, they all backed me into it as well,” Mr Stobbart said.

“That was a big part of it, the other part of it was someone who has played at the club, knows how the club works, knows the culture, we pride ourselves on our off-field culture as much as our on-field culture, that was a big part of it. We are a young side, young coach … it was a good factor.”

Bailey and Stobbart have both had long histories with the Tigers. Although playing at different levels, they have equally helped form the Morwell FNC Mr Stobbart is currently overseeing today, one which he says runs very efficiently.

“If I ring up any of the committee members and say “can you just do this for me, I’m stuck with something”, they’ll do it. We had a Gather Round here for women’s football, the canteen was sorted, I spent an hour down here on the day, where some other clubs the president would be stuck there all day. Our club’s set up perfect in that way,” Mr Stobbart said.

“That was probably one of the things that sold it for me, knowing the committee, I know every single one on the committee at a personal level as well. Brendan’s (treasurer Brendan Blackshaw) great, Amanda (Pollutro) our secretary is great, Hendo, Michael Henderson does a mountain of work, everyone does their thing, Clair and Ness (Claire Allison and Vanessa Couling) with the netball are unreal.

“That is one thing Paul said to me, he goes “you won’t have to worry netball, they’ll run themselves”, and that shows in the results they’ve had in the last few years, and they’re killing it this year.”

Morwell’s A Grade netball team is preparing to play in the Grand Final this Saturday, and will get to play the biggest game of the year on their home court.

As a first-year president, Mr Stobbart said the Grand Final loomed as an opportunity to showcase Morwell Recreation Reserve on a huge scale.

The premium facilities at Morwell FNC, which are shared with Gippsland Power, are easily the best in the region.

“It’s great to have it here, we have put a lot of our own money and work into upgrading the

facilities,” Mr Stobbart said of Morwell FNCs home.

“Grand Final is predominately league-run, (but) we’ll help out.

“I thank Latrobe City Council and Gippsland Power for the effort they put in, the financial side, it’s just another step to making this joint the best in Gippsland.

“We have the synthetic oval, the surface on the main oval is great, two netball courts, nice rooms, change rooms. Council and Gippsland Power, we have a great relationship with them, AFL Gippsland, the Grand Final will be great, hopefully we’ll get a bumper crowd in, hopefully the weather is good, we love having it.”

While it will be fingers crossed for a successful Grand Final day, Mr Stobbart said the support he had received from fellow Gippsland League presidents had been appreciated.

“Talking to a couple of other presidents, Kev (Kevin Foley) at Traralgon’s been great, Mal Mackie’s (Leongatha) been great, the girls at Warragul have been good to chat to. All the presidents are good, I think everyone just helps each other out in one way or another if they can,” he said.

“We all want to win but at the end of the day we are all in the league as one and want the league to thrive as the best league in Gippsland.”

Having taken on the responsibility of leading a football-netball club, which have now become big businesses on the local sporting landscape, Mr Stobbart said there had been a lot of great experiences so far.

“I’m enjoying it, sometimes you go home and you’re banging your head against a wall, but it is enjoyable,” he said.

“To have a contribution to this great club, whether it be for a year, two years, 10 years, whatever it is, to have my name up on the board is an absolute honour.

“I recommend anyone, even if they jump on the committee, jump in, get involved, learn some new skills, public speaking has been a massive one for me.

“I used to come up here with my old man (Dave Stobbart) when I was a kid to watch, played here, represented the club, played some below-average football here, to have a contribution off the field is an honour.”

As possibly an added bonus, being president means Mr Stobbart won’t ever have to pull the boots back on again for the reserves if they happen to be short.

Under Morwell FNC rules, a committee member cannot be a current player.

While the Tigers have a playing-coach, it looks as though they won’t ever have a playing-president.