FOR new Irymple Football Netball Club senior co-coach Tom Brownbridge, stepping up to the main role was always part of the plan.

He takes over the leadership role with returning co-coach Daniel Coghlan, from Nick Mee.

Brownbridge did his “apprenticeship” as assistant coach at the club for three seasons – 2017, 2018 and 2021.

Prior to this he coached the Under 13s in 2015 and the Under 18s in 2016, falling only a couple of goals short of a premiership.

“Irymple are big on the development of coaches so to coach through the junior ranks has happened for a few years now,” Brownbridge explained.

“Todd George and Will Callow coached through the Under 16s and Under 18s, then took the seniors to three grand finals and two premierships.”

The 28-year-old was born in Shepparton, moved to Bendigo until he was eight and then grew up in Kerang.

In 2014 he made the move to Sunraysia to complete an apprenticeship and play for the Swallows.

Away from the football field, Brownbridge is a busy man.

He’s recently started a business − Stonehouse Mildura − with a couple of partners, and balances this with spending time with his fiancee, Darcie Anderson.

Asked to describe himself, Brownbridge uses six words.

“Footballer, runner, business director, leader and lover,” he laughed.

All jokes aside, and back to football, Brownbridge’s first game of football was as a nine-year-old, with the Wandella Football Netball Club, where he played all his junior years, as well as two seasons of seniors.

He went on to play with Kerang in 2012 and 13, before joining Irymple from 2014 to 18, pulling on the jumper for Bacchus Marsh in 2019 and then Caroline Springs in 2020.

Returning to Henshilwood Oval this season, Brownbridge stepped straight back into the assistant coach position.

“I have been interested in coaching since I started in the juniors in 2015 and moved my way up to the assistant’s role in 2017,” Brownbridge said.

“Fortunately, Nick Mee was happy for myself to take his reigns as a co-coach and committed to a leadership role and continue to play.”

As a centre half back, Brownbridge said his biggest strengths on field are his defence, and his on-field leadership.

He’s most looking forward to developing relationships with the players and getting the best out of each individual.

As for what he will change at the club, Brownbridge said it wouldn’t be anything drastic.

“Not much will change from Daniel’s and Nick’s structures,” he said.

“I would like to tighten up a few things with player relationship as I have more access to time as both Daniel and Nick have families.”

The Swallows have long been a part of the benchmark group in the Sunraysia Football Netball League, and Brownbridge said his biggest challenge will be the pressure of success.

“Irymple have been at the top now for numerous years and all oppositions teams will be up and about to knock us off weekly,” he said, adding following up with the high standard of work previous coaches have instilled will also be a challenge.

But challenges are something Brownbridge has never shied away from, overcoming a PCL injury in 2019 and back surgery this year to get back on the football field.

“Personally, I’d love to just get through a full season again,” he said.

“In terms of a coach, obviously finals are what we aim for yearly, but with our current list and possibly bringing in a couple of extra players, I’d be kidding myself to not say that another grand final birth isn’t on the cards.

“It’s what we ultimately coach and play for.”

– By ZOEY ANDREWS

ABOVE: New Irymple Football Netball Club co-coach Tom Brownbridge with fiancee Darcie Anderson and canine friends Bron and Teddy.