FOOT­BALL STAL­WART'S SEC­OND CHANCE

FULL STORY IN SPORT

The Queensland Times - - FRONT PAGE - DAVID LEMS david.lems@qt.com.au

HAV­ING been with West­ern Pride since “day one’’, life mem­ber Kym Wick­stein could talk hours about what has been achieved.

He loves re­gional foot­ball and West­ern Pride so much, he is al­ways happy to high­light the in­cred­i­ble progress be­ing made by such a young state league club.

Among Pride’s ma­jor ac­com­plish­ments have been win­ning a se­nior men’s grand fi­nal af­ter just five years, pro­mot­ing play­ers and coaches to na­tional and in­ter­na­tional level, strength­en­ing equal­ity in the sport and build­ing a pow­er­ful record of par­tic­i­pa­tion across all grades.

“Win­ning the grand fi­nal in five years was pretty big,’’ Wick­stein said.

He said be­ing able to get the Pride women’s team back into the Na­tional Premier Leagues (NPL) com­pe­ti­tion was an­other sat­is­fy­ing mo­ment.

“That took a lot of hard work,’’ he said prais­ing the QT, lo­cal coun­cil­lors and state and fed­eral min­is­ters for back­ing that.

“The other one (big achieve­ment) was for the women to play be­fore the men.

“We’ve been try­ing for three years to have that equal­ity in the game in the club (pre­vi­ously be­ing blocked by Foot­ball Queens­land).

“That to me was an­other achieve­ment . . . it brings the club to­gether.’’

Well be­fore Pride teams took the field in the 2013 NPL sea­son, Wick­stein had a vi­sion of what re­gional foot­ball needed.

Work­ing closely with other lead­ing ad­min­is­tra­tors like Todd Hunt and sup­port­ive Ip­swich City coun­cil­lor David Mor­ri­son, Wick­stein knew what was needed.

Af­ter join­ing the board of Ip­swich Foot­ball and be­ing voted in as chair­man, Wick­stein ap­pre­ci­ated all the ground­work that was done to cre­ate West­ern Pride FC.

“First and fore­most would be get­ting the li­cence in the first place,’’ Wick­stein said.

While Ip­swich had put to­gether a solid bid to be­come a state league club, Wick­stein said he rated it only an 80 per cent chance of suc­cess.

When West­ern Pride was con­firmed as an NPL new­comer, Wick­stein con­ceded the fi­nan­cial re­al­ity of the job ahead struck home.

Equip­ment had to be bought and fields found to trial at. Ip­swich Gram­mar School pro­vided a wel­come start be­fore the North Ip­swich Re­serve and later Briggs Road Sport­ing Com­plex were se­cured for games.

De­fy­ing crit­ics

De­spite the doubters, West­ern Pride FC of­fi­cials built a solid foun­da­tion, backed by the grass­roots re­gional clubs at the time.

“Start­ing from noth­ing was a huge thing and I got calls from peo­ple in the foot­ball fra­ter­nity say­ing ‘it’s not go­ing to work’,’’ the long-serv­ing Foot­ball Ip­swich and West­ern Pride pres­i­dent said.

“The pres­i­dents of the five lo­cal clubs (Knights, Ip­swich City Bulls, West­ern Spirit, Spring­field United and Col­leges United) were in­stru­men­tal in help­ing get the li­cence be­cause all it needed was for that to be de­feated at the com­mit­tee meet­ing and it wouldn’t have hap­pened.

“We owe plenty to those club pres­i­dents.’’

In re­cent years, Pride has con­tin­ued to flour­ish, helped by pro­fes­sional coaches sup­port­ing each other.

Af­ter in­au­gu­ral se­nior men’s men­tor and for­mer Soc­ceroo Kasey Wehrman re­turned over­seas, his re­place­ment Karl Dodd car­ried the prover­bial ball for­ward be­fore back­ing the next head coach Gra­ham Har­vey.

‘‘

WE SAT AT BRIGGS ROAD FOR ABOUT HALF AN HOUR AB­SO­LUTELY DUMBFOUNDED KYM WICK­STEIN

Dodd (Guam na­tional coach) and Har­vey (Hong Kong) se­cured pro­fes­sional coach­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties dur­ing their stints at Pride.

It was when Dodd was coach­ing that Wick­stein recog­nised the club’s pre­mier­ship po­ten­tial.

“In 2015, when Karl Dodd was there, I said to Karl: ‘Mate if we can keep this squad to­gether and bring in a de­fender and an­other qual­ity mid­fielder, we will win the cham­pi­onship,’’ Wick­stein said.

“We missed the cham­pi­onship by two places (in 2017) but we won the grand fi­nal (beat­ing More­ton Bay United 2-1 at the Briggs Road Sport­ing Com­plex).

“The play­ers we brought in cer­tainly made a dif­fer­ence to that. Mind you, we lost play­ers as well.’’

For­mer play­ers like Harry Sawyer had se­cured pro­fes­sional con­tracts.

Dy­lan Wen­zel-Halls (Roar), Dan Hall (Cen­tral Coast Mariners) and Zoe Lambi (Roar) have been pro­moted to higher level foot­ball in re­cent months.

Holly McQueen is in the NPC and ju­nior Matil­das, along with a host of Pride play­ers mak­ing state squads.

Cur­rent Pride foot­ballers like Hay­den Mch­en­ery are be­ing scouted by New Zea­land teams.

“All that wasn’t hap­pen­ing be­fore we came into be­ing,’’ Wick­stein said.

For­mer Ip­swich City Bulls pres­i­dent Dan Bur­nell ac­cepted a foot­ball man­ager’s role in Mackay this year af­ter some tremen­dous work at Pride, in­clud­ing or­gan­is­ing the se­nior team’s post-grand fi­nal trip to Ja­pan.

In the 2018 sea­son just fin­ished, Pride’s un­der-18 boys and un­der-13 girls added grand fi­nal suc­cesses to the young club’s list of achieve­ments.

The girls com­pleted the pre­mier­ship/grand fi­nal dou­ble.

Wick­stein is also proud how West­ern Pride ear­lier be­came the first Ip­swich club in decades to host a New Zea­land in­ter­na­tional side pre­par­ing for a World Cup qual­i­fier.

But a ma­jor set­back was the sud­den can­cel­la­tion of the Pride women’s team li­cence last year.

“Pat (gen­eral man­ager Pat Boyle) and I were dev­as­tated,’’ Wick­stein re­calls.

“We sat at Briggs Road for about half an hour ab­so­lutely dumbfounded, go­ing through what we thought may have been our down­fall . . . and we could not find a rea­son.’’

How­ever, mas­sive pres­sure from the re­gional foot­ball com­mu­nity, backed by the QT and lo­cal MPs, had the bizarre Foot­ball Queens­land de­ci­sion re­versed.

With Ip­swich chas­ing a fu­ture A-League li­cence, Wick­stein was en­cour­aged by that wide­spread com­mu­nity and po­lit­i­cal sup­port.

“For them to show their hand so early about that was re­ally grat­i­fy­ing,’’ he said.

With the Pride women re-in­stated, the club has con­tin­ued its mas­sive devel­op­ment pro­gram across all the grades.

“One thing I’m very, very proud of, hav­ing been in­volved from day one, is that we are the only club in Queens­land that has fielded a team in ev­ery boys and men’s com­pe­ti­tion, and in ev­ery girls’ age group,’’ Wick­stein said.

“We had some headaches at the start but we al­ways fielded a team and never for­feited.

“Some­times we’d get a hid­ing but we just said if we can get through the first 12 months, it will all change.’’

It has, with West­ern Pride now one of Queens­land’s premier foot­ball clubs.

Photo: Rob Wil­liams

PRIDE, PA­TIENCE AND PLEA­SURE: Kym Wick­stein re­flects on the birth and rise of Ip­swich’s pro­gres­sive foot­ball club.

Photo: Con­tributed

West­ern Pride FC pres­i­dent Kym Wick­stein on one of his many cook­ing du­ties help­ing the state league club.

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