AFL: Tigers claw back under new leadership
AUSSIE RULES: Four years ago the Grafton Tigers club was on the top of the world.
After winning back-to-back AFL North Coast titles in convincing fashion there was nothing that could stop the club's momentum.
In 2016, the success of past seasons was nothing but a distant memory as the Tigers succumbed to a season of losses, amassing a points differential of -2247 in the AFL North Coast Seniors competition.
But under the new leadership of club stalwart James Hourigan the turn around of the club's on field success appears imminent.
In a year of lows in the senior ranks the emergence of the Tigers' junior ranks was a shining light with supporters of the club out in force to support the development of their cubs.
Hourigan has been on the committee of the Tigers as club secretary for most of the past decade and has seen the club experience a rollercoaster ride in the league.
"This year in particular was pretty tough and that came down to a lot of injuries at the start of the season,” Hourigan said.
"We were probably a little bit short in some key positions and we are already working towards that for next season.
"But the juniors are great, we have finally seen the fruits of that this year with the Under 15s. They were pushing for a preliminary final this year, unfortunately they didn't quite get there but they are a great group of kids and are showing some real promise.
"We have always been pretty strong on the committee of the Tigers and the juniors is growing which is great to see. In an area where kids are spoilt for choice in sport it is really good to see that they are still growing and coming up through the game.”
Now the plan of attack for the Tigers is developing their junior ranks into competitive senior side players with an aim to return to the glory of only four years ago.
"The years in 2011-12 when we went back-to-back premiers that was unreal,” Hourigan said. "It was something we didn't think we would really accomplish in that short time, we had a five year plan at the time and we were only in the second or third year and managed to do that.
"We are currently working on a new plan - whether that is restricted to a five year plan is unknown, more of a short and long term goal is the way to go about it.
"In the short term we just want to build numbers and get back to being that competitive force that we were which we are pretty confident we will be able to do next year.”
After a recent community forum run in conjunction with AFL North Coast the Tigers have already begun implementing strategies for the 2017 season.
Working side by side with the league will be a focus for the club as they aim to rebuild their playing numbers with the emerging juniors at the heart of that.
"There is a family bond in our club and we are trying to build on that,” Hourigan said. "It is just getting back to good community club footy, which is where we want to be.”
Former president Chris Schaeffer will continue with the club as vice-president while Wayne Phillips will resume his role with the juniors and senior captain Luke Stanford takes over the secretary role.