Young coach giving back to future players
AFTER nearly three years away from the football field, Jarred Ilic didn't know his luck had run out.
While he cut his teeth with the Woolgoolga Wolves, long-term overseas trips and niggling injuries made for a rocky debut within the Clarence Valley football scene.
"I've had constant knee problems and this was my first season back from playing after spending a couple of years travelling overseas,” he said.
"I wanted to play in the senior grades but it was difficult to prove my worth, given the time away.”
Ilic cites Grafton United head coach Scott Elphic as giving him his start in the senior grades.
"No-one before him had given me the time and had faith in me to show my worth,” he said.
Ilic quickly found a place within the Grafton United reserve-grade squad however, just as soon as he started back, another knee injury stalled his football career.
"It was a game against Urunga and my leg hyper-extended when I went to kick the ball. I knew the second I put my leg on the ground that it was gone,” he said.
"I had two meniscus tears in my left leg and almost tore my right. I was out for about six to eight weeks.”
Rather than wallow in self pity, Ilic saw this injury as an opportunity to give back to the next generation of Clarence Valley footballers.
"I've got that knowledge of the game and I feel like I should share it on. Kids deserve to have the chance if they want to make it big in the sport, they should go for it,” he said.
"My old man played Premier League soccer as a keeper for Woolgoolga Wolves and Coffs Tigers, my grandfather played in Serbia and, when I started, I was lucky to have been trained under some high-quality coaches.
"One of them, who also coached my old man did courses all around the world.”
As such, Ilic now hopes to take on more leadership roles within the Clarence Valley and jumped at the chance when NCF were looking to recruit more coaching staff earlier in the year.
"We have a lot of talented players, but this area seem to miss out on quality training or they have to travel to Coffs Harbour, so I want to give back,” he said.
"Scott (Elphic) understands my knowledge, saw it first hand, and asked me if I wanted to coach the younger grades and I was more than happy to get that foot in the door.”
Now juggling two teams, the Grafton City U10s and U12s, Ilic said while it was challenging, the experience was a worthwhile stepping stone toward coaching senior grades.
"I'm really enjoying it and pretty flattered to be coaching two grades,” he said.
"It's also great to work with the young ones because the biggest growth period in football is when they're that age so it's always best to start them off early in that respect.
"I'm hoping to go for my senior coaching licence and eventually coach the seniors, but for now I'm happy preparing our juniors for the future.”