Byrne legacy lives on

The Riverine Herald - - GAME ON - By An­drew John­ston

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.

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