Hunter Valley Football recognises the best in junior football

Maitland Junior Football Club has been named club of the year in the annual Hunter Valley Football awards.

Maitland JFC coach Mark Ling was named coach of the year and Justin Ison from the Thornton Junior Football Club won the volunteer of the year award.

The award are sponsored by Newcastle Permanent and Hunter Valley Football operations manager Sarah White said it was another tough year in selecting the annual winners.

White said the award was based on their active participation in football, the quality of club administration, dealings with the zone and encouraging participation in football.

“Maitland JFC offer community programs as well as inter-club development teams for those wanting more advanced coaching, while supporting the Talented Player Pathway by educating their players and families about the Skill Acquisition Program and surrounding National Premier League and Women's Premier League clubs,” she said. 

“They have conducted MiniRoos Kick Off programs, Summer 6s and gala days with the ‘Fair Play’ initiative.

“With the games being played for fun, Maitland Junior FC came up with the great idea to award a point scoring system based on a fair play which allowed teams to score points and compete for the Fair Play trophy.

“Coaches and parents of each team were awarded points for the continued encouragement of both teams. Teams were scored on their fair play with teamwork and player involvement being rewarded.”

White said the club had more than 740 registered player and more than 150 registered volunteers including 80 registered coaches.

She said the club also actively supported the referee branch of football by encouraging their members to complete a Level 4 course to become referees and supported their Silent Saturday and “Thanks, Ref” weekends at their home ground.”

Coach Mark Ling has coached the same team for the past six years, when some of them were in under sixes.

“In that time he has been an outstanding mentor for the boys. He has made all the players feel like valuable members of the team regardless of their skill level,” White said.

“He has nurtured the development of players who required extra assistance due to issues that sometimes hindered their teamwork. 

“His passion for the game is second to none and he has instilled this passion in the team, so much so that despite the team naturally growing as the age group progressed, players desperately wanted to join the team to be part of his high-quality training program.”

Above and beyond

Justin Ison has coached his son's team at Thornton Junior Football Club since 2011.  In 2017 he joined the committee and stepped into the roles of club coaching co-crdinator and grounds officer.

In nominating him the club said Ison had gone above and beyond in both roles.

“As club coaching co-ordinator, he undertook the training course earlier this year in between working shift work and making time for his wife and two children,” the club said.

“When Justin isn't helping other coaches, he is ensuring our grounds are top quality in his role as grounds officer. 

“Even after a long shift at work, you will often see Justin down at the grounds aerating them, mowing, line marking, fixing goals or walking the fields to look for foreign objects that may harm one of the children in our club. 

“Game days, Justin is down at the oval at 7am to set up. He ensures the grounds are safe for our families and that the facilities are ready to be used for the day. He is also there at pack up time, ensuring all volunteers are assisted in their roles.”