TOP DOG: South Mildura Football Club’s Pat Irwin has been shortlisted for AFL Victoria’s Stan Alves Youth Coach of the Year award.

By ADAM LUITJES

SOUTH Mildura Football Club’s coach Pat Irwin, PICTURED,  has been shortlisted for AFL Victoria’s Stan Alves Youth Coach of the Year award, following his efforts with the Bulldog’s Under 16 and Under 18 sides this season.

One of four candidates invited to attend tonight’s AFL Victoria Gala Dinner in Melbourne, the 44-year-old will be hoping to replicate the achievements of Robinvale-Euston’s Domenic Zaffina, who won last year’s junior award.

A passionate junior coach – who also oversees local development and representative sides – Pat said it was an honour to be shortlisted for the prestigious award.

“It’s a bit surprising and humbling to be honest,” Pat said. “Even winning the one for Sunraysia (Junior Coach of the Year), I went along expecting someone else to win.

“I am totally rapt. To be nominated was awesome, and then to be shortlisted I am really happy.”

Speaking to the Mildura Weekly on Tuesday, Pat said winning the award would be icing on the cake.

“There’s three other pretty outstanding nominations,” he said. “I had a read through their biography, and they seem like tough opposition.

“I feel like a winner to just be nominated.”

Having spent six seasons nurturing South Mildura’s bulldog pups, Pat said he gets a big kick out of junior coaching.

“I have coached Seniors, but I really enjoy coaching youth footy,” he said. “You want to put the right base into them, whether that be building their character as a person or their footy skills.

“You are only passing through a footy club, so if I can come through and help kids play Senior, TAC Cup or VFL footy, then it’s great being a part of their progress.”

During Pat’s tenure at South Mildura, 28 footballers have gone on to play Senior footy, while another 10 have played in the TAC Cup.

“I still keep in contact with all those guys,” Pat said.

“I feel once I have finished coaching them, that relationship hasn’t finished.

“I like to keep in touch with them, and I am pretty lucky that South has given me the opportunity.”

Sunraysia’s AFL Victoria Football Development manager, Trevor Ryan, said Pat deserved to be shortlisted for the award.

“We have obviously been lucky over the past few years to have Troy Moncur (Senior) and Domenic Zaffina (Junior) win awards, so to get Pat shortlisted is fantastic,” Trevor said.

“Fingers crossed he does get over the line Friday night, as it will be a fantastic reward for his year of coaching.”