Byrne legacy lives on
ASH Byrne can just taste the glory days, those back-to-back flags of 2001 and 2002.
First when retired Carlton star Ken Sheldon achieved the most unexpected of premierships by turning a team of good players into a great team, a championship team.
Then in 2002 it was Byrne leading the charge towards that second flag.
Sixteen years down the desolate track without another title, Byrne is now president of the football and netball club; his playing days long gone.
He’s overseen the appointment of two of his former charges – Andrew Walker and Simon Maddox – as cocoaches of the senior football group.
And he’s led the charge that has seen the club crowned champions of the GVL, with every grade of football and netball making finals.
The senior footballers may have fallen to Shepparton, but multiple teams in the club are grand final bound now.
Yet when Echuca was last charging towards a premiership, Byrne was a key part on-field, not in the office.
In 2001, he was one of the players who helped get the Murray Bombers across the line before taking over in 2002.
In 2018, that’s a hard memory to grab for Byrne, especially as his son Angus is part of the new-look seniors.
“That was 16 years ago,” he said, almost unable to believe that time has passed.
When he thinks about those years, he can’t help but draw a parallel to the current group.
“Under Ken (Sheldon) we weren’t the most talented group,” he said.
“What Ken was able to do was bring our group close together. He was a real club-coach, he was able to bring the younger members of our group and the older members of the group together and unite us.
“Being a close group is so important when you want to succeed; you want everyone on that field to play for each other as much as they play for the jumper. “And that’s exactly what we did.” The club won the flag in 2001, and when Sheldon departed, Byrne took over as coach.
“I wanted to continue that in a way,” he said.
“I wanted to keep our group close; I knew it was our best way for us to push for the flag again.”
Byrne did take them to another flag, and in his three years as coach, played a special role in the development of two young guns – Maddox and Walker.
Byrne said it was interesting how they turned out.
“What we had at the club at the time, the way we looked at our group and about bringing everyone together, it’s interesting how that was exactly what we were looking for when we appointed them as coaches, and that’s exactly what they have delivered to our club.”
Another interesting parallel is of course the number 11 jumper.
After wearing it in 2001, he watched his son wear it every week.
“I love watching all my kids play,” he said.
“They all either have or currently are playing for Echuca. This is where I played most of my football, so getting to see my family wearing those colours, it truly is special.”
Though when asked what it would mean to see his son play in a premiership for the same club he did if the Murray Bombers get there in coming seasons, he admitted he hadn’t really thought about it until asked by the Riv.
“It would be a wonderful thing,” he said.
“To be able to have that in common, we already have the jumper but to add that to it really would be special.
“Although he really does have me covered as a player, he’s a far better footballer.”
But so far dad has raised the benchmark, something for Angus to aim at – premiership player; premiership coach and with the way the club is tracking, potentially premiership president in the next few years.