To help them reach new heights on the Football South Coast field, the Gerringong Breakers have handed the keys to one of their most successful products.
That man is Brad Boardman, who was recently appointed as the club's senior men's coach in 2022.
"The Breakers have always been a club close to my heart and when they advertised the role for next year, I jumped at the chance," Boardman said.
"The progress they've made since joining Football South Coast has been astonishing and I feel I can build on the work and foundations Andrew [Lockard] and the club have put in place.
"It's really exciting and I can't wait."
After being born in Sydney, Boardman and his family moved to Gerringong when he was 14, which saw him play the majority of his youth career with the Gerry Emery Oval-based club, as well as Southern Branch.
After making his first grade debut as a 16-year-old, Boardman had stints with Kiama, Tarrawanna and Picton (winning the title in 2005 and 2006) in the Illawarra Premier League before transitioning in the National Premier League One competition with Sutherland in 2007.
During his time with the Sharks (2007-10 and 2013), Boardman enjoyed plenty of success, including a premiership (2009), competition championships in 2008 and 2010, Gold Medal Winner (player of the year) in 2009 and Golden Boot in both 2008 and 2009.
The now 39-year-old then enjoyed successful tenures with the Bonnyrigg White Eagles (2010 and 2011), Dapto/Dandaloo Fury (2012 IPL premiers) and Bankstown City Lions (2014), before returning to Gerringong in 2015 and 2016 - where he won two Shoalhaven District Football Association Golden Boots and one competition championship.
Boardman and his partner Elizabeth then moved out of the area, to Coogee, which saw him take on a captain/coaching role with Helensburgh in the FSC District League.
"Coaching has always been something I've strived to do, as I want to emulate my dad Norm (who is now the South Coast Phoenix technical director)," he said.
"The legacy he's built around the state is incredible and I really want to keep that coaching bloodline going.
"He's taught me an unbelievable amount about the game and I want to try and use that, along with my own flavour, in the coaching ranks."
During his time with the Thistle (two as captain/coach and two as coach), Boardman guided the club to three competition championships, as well as multiple grand finals.
But at the end of 2020, he and his partner decided to return to the South Coast.
"At the end of 2020, we decided to move back to Gerringong and I discussed with the Helensburgh club that was probably time for a new face to lead them, allowing me to bow out," the former NSW Country player said.
"I still loved the game, which saw me play reserve grade for Gerringong in 2021, but needed a break from coaching to refresh."
It was during the 2021 season, which was recently abandoned due to the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown, Boardman tipped his toes back into coaching with Lockard and the Breakers' first grade setup.
"I helped Andrew run a couple of drills and it really reignited that fire in my belly to coach," he said.
"After a couple of brief chats with Andrew, about what the club's goals are, it resonated with me, leading me to putting my hand up to coach and now here we are.
"It just feels right, as I know how much the club wants to get into the District League and I know firsthand the standard needed to be successful in that tough competition."
As the Kiama High School student alludes to, after two very successful campaigns in the Community League, the Breakers are desperate to be included in next season's District League competition.
"The club's progress over the past two years, in all grades, has been immense and we feel we have a real case to be in District League in 2022," said Boardman, who believes his experience can help take the club's amazing culture to the next level.
"The boys won the title last year and were sitting on top of the table undefeated when the season was called off, more than proving our candidacy.
"We missed out on promotion heading into this year and believe the District League should be expanded - instead of the usual promotion/regulation system - in 2022.
"The other Gerringong board members and I are in regular talks with the FSC committee about what barriers they feel are in place, while trying to address them as quickly as possible.
"Once a decision is made on that, we can start appropriately planning for the seasons ahead and aggressively start targeting certain players we feel fit the Gerringong mould.
"On top of that, it'll encourage our current playing group to stay because we can provide that pathway for them to play at a higher level, instead of being club players transition through.
"Having spoken to the playing group, and knowing what they are capable of, they are ready to test themselves at that level and I hope they get that chance in the blue, red and white."
Football South Coast's decision won't just positively impact the first grade men's system either, with Boardman having visions of where he wants to build the club up to.
"We want to build a system where players, all the way from juniors to seniors, have a legit pathway to get to where they want to in football," he said.
"I want to have a strong youth, second and first grade side, that if anyone needs to step up, they don't look out of place - which is the same with juniors stepping up into the youth side.
"I had exactly the same approach at Helensburgh, that the youth boys from my first year at the club were pivotal parts of the first grade side by year four - to me, that's how a club should run.
"If we do gain access into the District League, I can't see why we wouldn't become a hub for South Coast talent who are willing to challenge themselves at a higher level, while not having to travel all the way to Wollongong to do so.
"The District League will put them in the spotlight, as it did for me back in my playing days - that's how I first got identified when I was playing for Shoalhaven City, as I know how to identify talent ready to make the jump.
"Long-term, I can't see why the club can't aspire for even higher coals such as establishing themselves in the IPL."
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