FOLLOWING a breakout year with the Culburra Cougars in the Shoalhaven District Football Association, Harrison Ellem has decided to take his talents north and sign with the South Coast Flame.
It’s been quite the journey for the former Nowra Anglican College student, who started playing football at the age of four with the Millthorpe Tigers.
He spent eight years there before five years with the Western NSW Mariners and then two with the Cougars.
“I have been so fortunate to play alongside mates, great players and under some exceptional coaches,” Ellem said.
“Millthorpe was pivotal in my junior years – learning teamwork, foundation skills and the emergence of strategy under a consistent coach for many years in Luke Bingham, who is still an avid follower and supporter of my career.
“The Mariners was a huge next step – playing with them gave me insight into the professional side of football.
“The level of football, the intensity of training, the development opportunities, including tours of China and UK, saw my skills grow and my approach refine.
“Bryan Hoolihan and Rob Arnott, as coach and manager respectively, were instrumental in my years at Mariners.
“Finally, playing with the Culburra Cougars renewed my love of football.
“My family and I moved to the South Coast from the Central West in mid-2017 and in joining the Cougars, I was reminded of the passion and heart that lay in football.
“My family and I moved to the South Coast from the Central West in mid-2017 and in joining the Cougars, I was reminded of the passion and heart that lay in football,"Harrsion Ellem
“This club embraced me and my family and made us part of their community.
“I played out 2017 with the under premiership side (under 17s) and we were fortunate enough to take out the premiership under the coaching eye of Steve Gray, a South Coast product himself.
“By the next year, I was playing first grade and Lindsey Higgins and the leadership group at Cougars were beyond encouraging, building and utilising the players range of skills and bringing it together into a competitive competition locally.”
After two successful years with the Cougars and with him moving to Wollongong to study exercise science at university, Ellem decided to find a new club.
“I was on the lookout for a club that would provide new challenges, aid me in continuing to grow as a footballer, open opportunities and provide the camaraderie and inclusiveness I wanted my football to give me,” he said.
“I asked a few of the South Coast guys I knew and decided to trial for the Flame.
“The club’s ambition to link South Coast players to a higher level of football was appealing.
“Dad works alongside Flame’s first grade skipper Matt White and he was really encouraging.
“I haven’t looked back – the combination of high quality football and coaching alongside clubmanship and support was visible from my first session.
“I am keen to explore the opportunities the club provides for development and work hard to maintain my position and to contribute to the team and club’s success.
“While a young club in terms of establishment years, I see it has all the markings of a club I can commit to and be part of for a long period.
“The professionalism is evident but at no loss to the team ethic and cohesiveness.
“The expectations and culture they’re building is really solid and consistent
“I hope to grow here, to strengthen my skills, to build my profile and to contribute to the club on and off the field.”
By joining the Flame, the centre-back joins fellow Shoalhaven products Alex Boardman, Martin Thompson, Darren Jones and White at the club – which has helped his transition into the squad.
“Martin Thompson, who is playing his second year for Flame, was a team mate at Cougars, so great to see him again,” he said.
“Seeing guys like Alex Boardman, who I played against in the Shoalhaven competition, have all made the transition a little easier.
“Matt White and his unique leadership style have also helped me feel part of the club.”
The Callala Bay product and his side are in the middle of a big pre-season, which has seen them play both South Coast United and Cringila Lions in trial matches.
“I got solid game time in both trials so far, so was happy with that,” he said.
“The coaches have given me some feedback about what they want to see from me in my role – good defensive profile and reliability in the back line – so I’ll keep working hard to deliver.
“Our boys, with some consistent players from last year and some new blood, are coming together well, with refinement and knowledge of each others playing styles and strengths developing.
“Both games ended in 4-nil victories for us, which are solid results and delivered just what a trial should – some areas to focus on and some cohesion in the team.”
Looking ahead, Ellem, 18, and his squad have two more trials Dunbar Rovers and Fraser Park, teams he played during his Mariners days, before a final one against Hurstville FC – before their round one clash with Western Condors FC on March 23.
“Individually, my goal this season are to contribute to keeping as many clean sheets as possible,”Harrsion Ellem
“Individually, my goal this season are to contribute to keeping as many clean sheets as possible,” he said.
“I’m also keen to develop my skills and push myself in my development supported by the South Coast Football teams.
“I’d like us to deliver to the level we know we can and work hard on the park.
“Also, performance as a team is critical; get as many points as we can and fight for promotion by finishing in the top three.”