AFL Rd 14 -  Port Adelaide v Sydney
AFL Rd 14 - Port Adelaide v Sydney

Why a former AFL player’s driving 1257km to coach local club

IN A challenging year which saw local sport emerge as one of the glues which binds a community together, the importance of coaches cannot be underestimated.

And in a town like Lismore where the Swans punch above their weight in rugby league heartland, the coach's job is even tougher.

It's not a job you take on lightly, particularly when you're filling the shoes of the highly respected and much loved Joey Mitchell who coached the team for the past few years.

So when incoming Lismore Swans senior men's coach Ash Pritchard, 51, was asked what attracted him to the job, he didn't hesitate - he said talking to Mitchell sealed the deal.

 

BELOVED COACH: Lismore Swans coach Joey Mitchell is stepping down after several years at the helm. Photo: Alison Paterson
BELOVED COACH: Lismore Swans coach Joey Mitchell is stepping down after several years at the helm. Photo: Alison Paterson

Prichard who is currently based in Sunbury, an outer suburb of Melbourne, said the opportunity which came out of the blue, was fantastic.

"A bloke I know called me and said he'd heard the Lismore Swans were looking for a new coach for the senior men's team and he reckoned I'd be a good fit," he said.

"Joey rang me, we had a good chat, a really positive discussion and I got a good sense of him and the club."

Busy packing up for long drive from Victoria to Lismore, Prichard cheerfully admitted he bleeds AFL and still follows the Magpies.

"I lived in Apollo Bay played for them then Demon's recruiter Cameron Schwab selected me for the U19s to play for Melbourne when I was 15 or 16," he said.

"I finished up playing for Collingwood U19s, then seconds then seniors in the centre or on the wing because I used to be pretty fast in those days and I loved playing in the forward flank and in the guts."

Pritchard spent time also playing footy in South Australia as well as in Brisbane where he played for Morningside in the half forward flank or on the wing.

"It was great, I played in premierships, coached junior footy and a lot of those kids excelled including Mal Michael and Brett Voss," he said.

Stints on the Gold Coast, then Sunbury followed before Lismore came calling.

"After Swans president Laura (Cahill) rang and formally offered me the coach's job, I am really excited," he said.

Cahill said the club was thrilled about the appointment.

"A big element of this appointment is his experience and years of high end football," she said.

"It's exciting to have someone come on board surrounded by footy their whole life and bring a new phase of passion to the club."