The Cardiff Hawks wouldn’t swap respected women’s mentor Liam Gibson for anyone in the AFL Hunter Central Coast (AFLHCC) community.
And, it’s also probably why he’s been nominated for the BHP Community Coach of the Year award, an Australia-wide competition that acknowledges the “best in the business”.
While Gibson faces an impressive array of contenders for the national title, which will be announced on 15 October, his club is backing him all the way.
“We’re extremely proud of the effort Liam has put in and the results he’s achieved, not only on the park but through initiatives such as his Leadership Program,” vice-president Callan Buchan said.
“Both of our women’s teams finished minor premiers, in their respective divisions, in 2021 before the season was suspended.
“This year, there were more than 40 players at every training session and the standard of play from all of them increased significantly.
“Liam helped seven girls attend the local representative carnival, too, with five being selected in the League’s rep squad.
“As to his Leadership Program, it identified existing management strengths within the Hawks, and utilised these as an asset to teach, role model and promote the skills among the women’s team.
“Eight members participated.
“And, the success of the initiative led to its expansion to include six players of the women’s reserve grade side.
“The aim of it was to foster and develop strength-based leadership skills, that could be shared among key team roles and developed in a nurturing environment.”
Gibson joined the Hawks as an energetic 12-year-old in 1995.
He then enjoyed a highly-successful senior vocation, donning the Cardiff jumper on more than 300 occasions and spending a decade in the representative arena.
He captained the rep side for four years, before turning his attention to coaching.
“Liam brings extensive experience, knowledge, passion and leadership to the role,” Buchan said.
“Also, he has a desire to guide and nurture the next generation.
“He began his [coaching] career with the Sydney Swans Academy, helping to develop some of the game’s biggest stars.
“In 2019, Liam hung up his boots and formally started as an assistant for the Hawks women’s team.
“He had an immediate positive impact and, when the head coaching position became available, he was eager to pursue the opportunity.
“At this time, Liam successfully negotiated his dedication to the side while also supporting the other women in his life.
“He’s an active and involved parent to his young daughters and is inspired by their tenacity and spirit for sport and learning.
“He observed and came to admire the resilience of women in his daughters and wife as they negotiated an unexpected and traumatic illness.
“Liam was inspirational in the way he conducted himself during this time and continues to do so.”
Buchan said the Hawks “knew this was the start of something special”.
“By the end of the home and away rounds, our women’s team had finished the highest they have since the inception of the competition,” he explained.
“Liam proved his focus on developing the baseline of skills for all players and providing growth opportunities was paying off.
“The club noticed the female players were committed to training and game attendance, which was rewarded with a preliminary final berth in 2020.
“Liam’s a passionate coach who makes sure everyone knows their role, has open communication, and always brings it back to having fun.
“He challenges everyone to put in the work required to improve.
“The team has become successful not only on field but also within the club, community and social events.
“His nomination as BHP Community Coach of the Year is certainly well-deserved.”
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