Palmwoods pride their Hinterland Blues AFC

Coach Bruce Bell is all smiles for the future

Coach Bruce Bell is all smiles for the future

By Victoria McGuin

The Hinterland is peppered with sports clubs that nurture talent, encourage friendships and engage the community, but you need committed volunteers to run, sustain and improve them. Bruce Bell, coach and junior football president of the Hinterland Blues AFC, is one such volunteer – and he’s on a mission for his own ‘Battlestar Gallactica’.

Bruce’s father was in the Air Force, so he grew up “moving all over the place and playing every kind of football”, but he enjoyed Australian Football the most – as do his children.

“My daughter fluctuates between dance and football, and my son joined Auskick as soon as he was able to play. Then when my step-daughter started to play her team had no coach, so I helped out.”

Bruce laughs, “Once you volunteer to be a coach or on the committee, you get ‘your sentence’ while your kids go through it! I think I have another ten years or so of Junior Football.”

Jokes aside, he is clearly passionate about improving the club, as the numbers were in decline when he came on board.

“People were driving past us to Maroochydore, because it’s bigger, but one of our Under 16s is in Sydney playing in the national championships, and we have a number of other representative players at the club too – so you don’t have to be in a big club to be noticed.”

Bruce decided it was time to rebrand and shift the mindset. “Legally we are still the ‘Nambour and Hinterland AFC’, but it didn’t make sense to me. We are based in Palmwoods and we are like the Battlestar Gallactica of clubs – we have kids from Coolum, Bribie, Woombye, Kureelpa …

“We needed to create a bigger footprint for recruitment and sponsorship that reflected our demographic. So we changed the name to the Hinterland Blues, but kept the colours and the club song.

“I think it has swept a bit of a broom, culturally, around the place and now we are getting back on an even keel, which is really exciting.”

This year, the Hinterland Blues were fortunate that their Under 8s and Under 10s went to the Gabba and represented the Lions, playing on the Gabba during half time.

“The whole experience for them was very exciting; meeting the players, going under the Gabba into the changing rooms, having photos and autographs.

“I talked to a number of our coaches about it. I remember doing that as a kid in Melbourne. They are lasting memories.”

The teams are building up now, since the rebrand. “We are the only club on the Sunshine Coast with a team in every age group and competition,” Bruce says proudly. “And we have our first Open Age Women’s team, which ages varying from 17 to 53.”

Amongst the girls the camaraderie is excellent and they are going from strength to strength. “There are actually more girls than boys in the Under 8’s team at the moment, and Shannon Campbell, who was one of our juniors, now plays for the Brisbane Lions Women’s Team.”

Bruce believes the reality of any sporting club is that you need to run it as a business. “We receive a $6k grant from Council for the whole facility, but just to get dangerous areas resurfaced before the season costs $4k, so sponsorship is vital.”

Local businesses are keen to sponsor the club: Channel Nine, Totally Workwear, the Mooloolaba Hotel, and Elders Palmwoods Real Estate are all on board. “And the Woombye SPAR have sausage sizzles for us – they supply everything and we make the profit.”

Above all though, this is about community. “We are not a ‘win at all costs’ club – we encourage participation, getting out there and learning the game, but this is also about making solid friendships, supporting each other through the game and in life.”

A previous club president passed away from cancer, and now the club holds an annual fundraiser where they play in specially-made pink jerseys, which are then auctioned for a cancer charity.

Other activities include a group of mums running a camp on the grounds, as something a bit different and fun for the kids; the Under 14s are going to the Big Bounce and the Gabba for a weekend.

“We are hosting the end-of-year Carnival for the Under 8 and Under 10 teams of the Coast in August – there will be about 1200 people coming along!” Bruce says.

These local clubs can clearly have a lasting a positive impact, with lifetime friendships forged and mentors cherished. “I have footy mates I haven’t seen in ten years, but when we talk or meet up it’s like yesterday,” Bruce shares.

“At my grandfather’s funeral, he was in his 90s, this man turned up, in his 70s. My dad had coached him in soccer at seven years old. He’d seen the notice in the paper and wanted to come and pay his respects.”

The clubs can also help steer kids to a better path. Bruce recalls one boy who had moved to the area after leaving a negative home environment. He had lost interest in many things, including school, but he joined the club.

“One day, a member of his local family came up and said, ‘You have no idea the impact this club has had’. This boy has a new lease of life and is turning things around at school again.

“With three kids, work and training, life is fairly frantic. Some days I think, ‘why am I doing this again?’ and it is moments like that, that remind me.”

The Hinterland Blues welcome new players throughout the season, to find out more visit Hinterland Blues AFC on Facebook or call President of Junior Football: Bruce Bell 0438 485 487