Plenty of upside – Nelson Bay Marlins look towards a bright future

Written By David Redden


The Nelson Bay Marlins are a huge focus on developing their Junior base and retaining them in an order to rebuild their Club after a series of departures of senior players in recent times.

The departures of Elliott Davey Medallist Jayden Rymer, Aaron Clayden, Luke Price, the Eddy twins Jeremy and Ben, Adam Grinyer, reigning AFL Sydney Best & Fairest Philippa Smyth, Sophie Balcombe, former BDAFL best & Fairest Lisa Steane, the Norton sisters Annalise & and Molly Simpson have left room for the next wave of Nelson Bay juniors to come through and make the Marlins a League powerhouse once again.

In speaking with Marlins Football Operations Manager Brendan Jones, Black Diamond Cup coach Sean McGrath and League and Marlins centre-half back and captain Kate Holland, the club seems determined to continue rebuilding this season and beyond.

Jones stated that “we’ve had such a massive change in personnel, it’s been really pleasing to see that some of our junior players have stepped up; players such as Jack Byrnes, Chase Morrissey, Jack Byrnes and Tylah Spelt have played 17s in the past couple of years and they have made the transition to senior football really easily, they haver repaid the faith that we have shown them and they look like genuine senior footballers, which is really pleasing”.

Jones explained that “we can’t expect to have people to move to Nelson Bay just for work or people wanting a sea change. We are not going to get young footballers like that, so we really need to develop the bond between our junior and senior clubs in order to have players come through the grades. Having said that, we have had a couple of RAAF personnel come out to play with us, plus Jason Carey, who has absolutely no regard for his own safety, putting his head where he shouldn’t on multiple occasions most weeks”.

Jones also mentioned that League ruckman Billy Barton is “a natural leader and no longer just a basketballer, whilst ex-Swans utility Craig Bird has made several impressive cameos this season”.

Kate Holland, who had a wonderful year in 2018, finishing in the top 5 in the League Best and Fairest as well as captaining Hunter, has seen Nelson Bay been one the powerhouses of the Womens Competition since its inception but is now dealing with the Marlins being in the bottom half of the competition for the first time.

Holland said “the last few weeks have given a positive mentality, and those few wins have given us real impetus and hope for the rest of the season. Natasha Flint has improved astronomically over the past 8 weeks, leading us on and off the field in an absence of senior players”.

Holland explained that “we are starting to rotate our senior players from one end of the ground to another, in an attempt to give us some more options in front of goal. Our backline is our strength at the moment, so moving our senior players around is something we are trying”.

Holland, who has almost exclusively played at centre-half back in her time with the Marlins, Hunter and the HCC Womens side, has been spending time at centre-half forward, switching with Flint and multi-sport star Jemma Astley in a bid to kick winning scores.

Black Diamond Cup Coach Sean McGrath agreed with Jones in saying “that our 17s and players under 20 are our future”.

In speaking about Nelson Bay’s gut-wrenching decision to withdraw from the Black Diamond Plate Competition this season, McGrath explained “this is a bit of a unique season really. Not having a Plate side has reduced our playing numbers quite dramatically, at the moment we have approximately 30 registered Mens players, and we have a tough run of injuries, work commitments, unavailability, Groovin’ The Moo and so on. We have had only a few games this season when we have 22 players at the start of our Black Diamond Cup games”.

On the subject of the Plate withdrawal, McGrath advised that “this was a big decision for our Club. It has definitely been a positive as we are actually getting more people to training, the attitude at training is a lot better and we are all heading in the one direction.”

All three Marlins leaders are very confident that their juniors in both girls and boys are very strong and are providing an ideal lead-in to senior footy. McGrath made the observation that “there aren’t many opportunities for employment at Nelson Bay outside of hospitality and tourism, which involve a lot of weekend work. We have 4 or 5 players that travel to Callaghan for Uni, but keeping senior players is one of our biggest challenges”.

Jones clearly stated “that we want the Plate side back soon, and we want to have the right people leading us on and off the field”.

We thank Brendan Jones, Kate Holland and Sean McGrath for their time and we wish Nelson Bay all the best in testing times.