Western Pride junior coach Andrew Catton.
Western Pride junior coach Andrew Catton. Cordell Richardson

Vital football links forged between schools and active clubs

FOOTBALL: At Ipswich Grammar School, Andrew Catton is head coach of the IGS First XI, a team that has developed some exciting footballers in recent seasons.

Catton supports his better students playing for Western Pride or the Ipswich Knights as they complete their schooling commitments.

He said it's a good fit linking school talent to ambitious Ipswich clubs.

"It's really important for me, from an IGS perspective, that we maintain a good relationship with Pride and Knights and I hope that happens,'' he said.

"Partly due to my involvement, the number of IGS boys that went down to Knights this year was pretty high so I know there's a few of them intending to stay. That's fantastic.''

When he started at IGS in 2015, Catton said about 10 school footballers were involved in local clubs. That's now grown to more than 40 remaining in the local area.

"Irrespective of what club I work for, I just want to see these good Ipswich kids stay in the region and try and grow the region,'' he said.

That's crucial as Western Pride pushes for a future A-League presence.

"The more kids that we have playing football in this region, the more we increase the demand for a higher level club here,'' he said.

Catton plans to build on that junior pathway development at Western Pride.

"I don't mind working with the older boys as well,'' he said. "I guess I get my kicks out of that by doing the school stuff.

"But my niche, I think, is that younger age group. I get a fair bit of joy out of watching kids develop and improve.''

He hopes a new regional schools program being launched by Pride next year will help attract more players to Ipswich clubs.

"We're going to have training hubs throughout the western corridor based at a couple of different clubs,'' he said.

That includes Boonah and Fernvale to build on existing Pride links with schools like West Moreton Anglican College and IGS.