Ipswich footy club’s strategy to reach new heights
AS one of Ipswich's fastest growing clubs, the Ipswich Eagles are keen to expand as they prepare for their 20th anniversary.
Formerly the RAAF Eagles, the Ipswich club continues to increase its numbers each year, mainly due to a spurt in junior development and increased focus on women's footy.
After starting as a men's club, the Eagles celebrated a historic women's senior team grand final triumph this year.
While that was immensely satisfying for club president and assistant coach Clint Bateman, the ongoing growth in junior numbers has boosted excitement levels.
From six kids playing in 2015, the club expects to have more than 150 juniors next year with an aim to field boys and girls teams from under-6 to under-16 in coming seasons.
"It's growing pretty big actually,'' Bateman said, having played with and been a part of the Eagles since they switched from the RAAF foundation.
"Every year we are getting more and more interest and more and more signings and hardly anyone leaving so that's a positive.''
The historic success of the Ipswich Eagles women this year also underlined the need for longer term planning.
The grand final victory came in only the second year Ipswich had fielded their own women's team, having started with six players joining a mixed Coorparoo/Yeronga team in 2017.
"Winning a grand final just really put AFL on the map in Ipswich for women,'' Bateman said.
"A lot of women are just taking an interest now in another code of sport. It's fantastic.''
That's why Bateman and his committee are working to ensure the footy club flourishes at their Limestone Park base.
"There's a lot of stuff we need to do around the club,'' Bateman said.
"We're growing in numbers and the facilities and the infrastructure needs to keep up with the growth.
"That's one thing we're working on with a strategic plan and hopefully we can work something with the Council very soon . . . to improve and expand on the facilities.''
Although boosted by receiving some former AFL changerooms, the Eagles currently still have a small clubhouse that struggles to accommodate demand on big match days.
"Ideally, on our wish list would be a bigger clubhouse,'' Bateman said.
"When it was just two men's teams, it was fine. It was comfortable. That's all we needed.
"But now we have two senior men's teams, we've got a senior women's squad with 30 plus players and then we've got potentially over 150 juniors next year.
"They've got families and siblings. It is crowded and uncomfortable.''
Bateman said whether the shared clubhouse was extended or a new one built through a grant remained to be seen. However, the club will work with Ipswich City Council on options in progressing that goal.
One advantage of playing at Limestone Park is the open spaces around the field.
However, Bateman said other facility goals were securing shade on the new terraced area, a new scoreboard and some fencing.
"The crowds are getting bigger and bigger,'' he said.
"AFL has just grown and now we've got the Lions (at Springfield) coming in a couple of years time, that's just going to boost us as well.
"It's just going to make AFL more popular.''
Bateman hopes the club's 20th anniversary next year provides a timely opportunity for the Eagles to build on what has been achieved and the future development.
"It (our focus) is always there for all teams to do well but especially the men,'' Bateman said.
"They have come close to winning a few grand finals and they are well overdue on the scoreboard,'' Bateman said. "It's on our radar.
"But I think the main priority is the juniors. We just want to really get as many juniors as we can . . . from under 6s all the right way to under 16s.
"If we can really build up our numbers there, it's really going to set us up for the next two to three years to flow into the seniors.''