‘For the love of the game’: Samaria Suns set for big 2020 after initial hurdle

By Meg Saultry

An initial lack of volunteers for 2020 saw crisis talks held at the Samaria Suns in recent weeks, but the club says this is all in the past after a commitment was made by several club members to put their hands up to help.

Following the Samaria Suns' annual general meeting last year, the club was left will all key roles at the club left vacant.

It left the future of the club, which started back in 2016, up in the air. 

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But in a meeting of the minds last week, a number of people involved with the club indicated they would take up roles this season to secure the future of the club.

Outgoing president Alastair Crum said the extraordinary circumstances of the AGM were not reflective of the club’s viability going forward.

“The situation was, all the playing group were happy, but we just needed a change of committee,” Crum said.

“We had a meeting last week and people indicated they would be happy to put their hands up, so it’s business as usual.”

Crum said this was just a small blip on the Suns' trajectory towards a successful 2020 season.

“We’ve got a good bunch of players and great support from the community, including our sponsors,” he said. 

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“There is still a really positive feeling at the club and with a new injection of people and some good results, we’ll continue to move on through 2020.”

The Suns’ unfortunate position is all too familiar for community sporting clubs across the country, as a downward trend of people taking up volunteer roles at clubs materialises.

“We’re in a unique position at the Suns. We’re over 35 and play just half the game, so we don’t need as much input,” Crum said.

“But I’ve been a part of other clubs, and the majority of work falls on the few people.”

The Suns will again be led by head coach Kyle Pugh, who goes into what will be his third season in charge.

Pugh said those at the club began to rally after the initial AGM meeting meant the 2020 season was in jeopardy.

“Our core group, about a dozen players, became aware of what they were about to lose, what they valued if they didn’t step up,” Pugh said.

“It’s a terrific result to get that commitment from our regulars.” 

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While the coach said the club had expected initial interest to wane in 2019 and 2020, following the birth of the club, last year had exceeded expectations on the ground.

“Last year was better than anticipated, we brought in up about-eight nine new players,” Pugh said.

But it was the away games which were again the hardest to accommodate.

“Away games are harder to get a commitment from players,” Pugh said.

“So, unless we can pick up a few more new players, that will likely be another struggle.

“We’ve gone to Kerang with five players before.

“But the beauty of Masters’ football is we’ve been able to share players, and we did 14-a-side.

“Masters is all about the love of the game, there are no points, no ladder, it’s just about mateship.”

Pugh said the benefits of Masters football could not be understated.

“For me, it’s all about the mental health benefits,” he said.

“I suffered from depression, but have come good now. A big part of that was being involved in Masters football.

“It’s that release and outlook – you can switch off, have a laugh with mates and enjoy the game.

“A big part of the benefits that masters have is coping with adverse conditions.”

With pre-season training, and the season itself, just around the corner, Pugh gave the club’s 2020 draw the tick of approval. 

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“It’s a really good draw. We’ve got five home games when normally we’ve traveled a bit in past seasons,” he said.

Games will also be played more regularly, with the league scrapping the previous seven-week break in the middle of the season.

Training resumes on Friday, January 31, with three weeks of family fun training nights.

“All the families come down and kids train with us,” Pugh said.

“It’s about involving them, sweating it up and running around.

“And there is a barbecue and social drinks after training.”

Following that, normal training resumes Wednesday, February 19, for some more solid hitouts, though the fun will continue through other avenues.

“We’ve got a couple of different things in the works, barefoot bowls, a golf morning and lunch,” Pugh said.

“We’ll be pushing the social side of it.” 

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And once the season begins on March 29, the club will switch over to training with the Benalla All Blacks at Friendlies Oval.

“We have a really good relationship with the All Blacks,” Pugh said.

“It’s also an opportunity to help their reserve players with our football knowledge.

“With our lower numbers, the training is better for everyone.”

● The club’s extraordinary annual general meeting will be held on January 21, with time and place to be confirmed.

● To get involved with the club in 2020, phone Kyle Pugh on 0459 710 420 or head to their Facebook page by searching Samaria Suns.