Swapping Hill for Hawks
Annette Ellis, new president of Tuggeranong Hawks, pictured with coach Peter McGrath. Photo: Melissa Adams
PRESIDENT of a football club is normally a job for one of the boys, but that hasn't stopped former Labor member of Parliament Annette Ellis from taking on the job at the North Eastern Australian Football League's ''poor cousin''.
Ellis is the new president of the Tuggeranong Hawks, and is the first and only female president in the second-tier competition.
The Hawks have struggled both on and off the field. They met with the NEAFL about their future in the competition last year and they were required to show they could improve their performances in both departments.
Ellis felt the club's current course was a tough one to change, but she was still going to do it.
''I used a fairly unfortunate, but probably accurate, analogy recently - it's like the QE2, we're trying to turn it around and it's a bit slow, but we're determined that we're going to turn it around and have a lot of success in doing so,'' she told The Canberra Times.
Ellis was Tuggeranong's patron from ''some time in the '90s'' until she took on the presidency.
She spent nearly 15 years as the member for Canberra and thought her time on Parliament Hill would help her deal with both federal and ACT governments.
Her first goal is to get the Hawks off the bottom of the ladder, after they've won four of the last five wooden spoons.
That starts with a new coach, Peter McGrath, backed by a new board.
She hoped McGrath's links with the Sydney Swans - he was pick 67 in the 1999 rookie draft - will help develop a new culture.
''We want to get ourselves off the bottom and be as competitive as we can, so there's an enormous amount of work being put in by the club and by the board to ensure we give it every chance,'' Ellis said.
Having been involved with the club for ''15, 16, 17'' years, Ellis understands the history of the Hawks and ''knows'' her club well.
When she first became involved, lamington drives and sausage sizzles were regular fund-raisers to keep the club afloat. While she wants to improve Tuggeranong's ledger, there are no plans to bring in another ''Aker'' to help bolster the club's coffers. (Last year, triple AFL premiership player Jason Akermanis made a one-off appearance for the Hawks, inspiring them to their only win of the season and landing a $39,000 pay day.) While Akermanis will coach North Albury this year, another former AFL star such as Barry Hall may have been an option for the Hawks, but Ellis said it wasn't on the agenda.
Despite the need to boost the bank balance, she wants to keep Tuggeranong as a community club and to secure Greenway Oval as a permanent home.
The ACT government is committed to a $500,000 redevelopment of the oval, which is shared between the Hawks, ACT Gridiron and the local rugby league competition.
A new board, a new coach and a permanent home will be the perfect way to start on the tough road ahead.