Northern Suburbs Football Association (NSFA) and Northern Tigers FC have always emphasised the need to put the community first.
For Technical Director and Women’s First Grade coach Jason Eagar, being a part of a club setup that has gone from strength to strength and an association that has developed in to one of the strongest in NSW has made his footballing journey all the more satisfying.
Eagar’s many years with NSFA and Northern Tigers has meant he has been up close and personal as both the association and its representative club made incredible progress across the 2000s and 2010s to now.
Despite admitting to not considering coaching until after retiring from playing, Eagar knew once he started taking the steps towards being a professional coach that it was the life for him.
“I started my coaching journey with Ryde City all those years ago, really just to put my toe in the water and see if enjoy coaching. I think some players, when they finish playing they give coaching a go because they think that’s the next step. Coaching is certainly not for everyone but I found that I enjoyed it and once I found I enjoyed it I thought I needed to get in and do some study to see if I like it further. I ended up doing a Masters in Sports Coaching at the University of Queensland through a course with the Australian Institute of Sport and getting an A Licence. The process isn’t a quick one, it does take a while”.
Early days with the Tigers and current roles
Eagar joined the club at a time when it had only known the Northern Tigers FC name and badge for a few years, meaning it was undergoing a transition period.
Having begun his coaching career with State League side Ryde City, Eagar made the switch to Tigers for the 2006 winter season.
“There was a position open in the Men’s Under 20s at the Northern Tigers, so I applied for and got that role”.
“At the time the club seemed quite organised and were ambitious, I think they had recently come into the Super League (now called Men’s NPL2). It was a good opportunity for me to develop as a coach and that certainly proved to be the case”.
“I coached the 20s for a couple of years, then we won the Grand Final and the competition in 2008. Then I took over the Men’s First Grade in 2009 for about seven years. I took a break from coaching and just did the ‘TD’ role for a couple of years, came back and did the Men’s First Grade for a year and then I went over to the Women’s First Grade last year”.
In a typical week, one not interrupted by COVID-19, Eagar’s role as Technical Director at the NSFA and Northern Tigers is dedicated to keeping everyone on the same path.
“There’s a balance between operational stuff and strategic stuff. Normally on a Monday I’d be reviewing the weekend, looking at what happened across the weekend and gathering information across all of our programs”.
“From there I can see if any action needs to be taken and can make sure all the coaches are on top of what needs to be done for the coming week. I set out a plan for the various coaches, teams and players over the course of the week. And then for the week it is about making sure we are on track and seeing if we need to change things, there are always fires to put out”.
Progress, pathways & execution
With the NSFA publishing their Strategic Plan report outlining the association’s plans for the period spanning 2020 to 2023 to the public and COVID-19 bringing football to a standstill for the foreseeable future, Eagar has been afforded time to reflect on the progress that has been made at the club up until now.
“There’s no doubt been an immense amount of growth and change over the time that I’ve been here, so the next three years are about really trying to capitalise on the work that has been done in the years prior by a lot of different people”.
“Now we are in a very strong position to push, from a Northern Tigers’ perspective, to be able to maintain and really excel in the Women’s space in NPL 1. We want to be a real leader in that space from SAP all the way to the first team”.
“The Men’s team are in NPL 2 at the moment so there is a real energy and focus to try and get promoted to the top level, to give all players within the club and the association a pathway from a local Under 6s level all the way up to then be able to play at the highest level in the state in their area. So that is certainly a massive motivation over the next three years”.
“From a local perspective, we’ve been hampered like everybody else by COVID-19 with a couple of things, but we had an exciting NSFA SAP League that was about to start this year, which was set to be the first one of its kind in the state. At this point we haven’t been able to kick it off but that’s something that we hope we will be able to provide; fantastic opportunities for local kids over the next three years to help them continue to grow. We not only want to build a base within the NSFA clubs and make them stronger, but we ultimately want to help Northern Tigers in terms of players”.
“And then our Super League results for the youth age groups with the boys’ sides have just gotten better and better over the last couple of years. So, we really hope the quality of that league continues to grow. And then likewise, for the girls’ side the Diamond League is really strong”.
“We are improving on a really strong base so it’s just a matter of taking advantage of that now and taking all of those programs I mentioned to the next level”.
“I think at this point (as you would’ve seen in the Strategic Plan) we want to provide the highest level of football that we can within our footprint, which is NPL 1 for Men’s and Women’s. Over the next three years it is definitely getting in to NPL 1 for the Men’s and making sure the Women are a force in NPL 1”.
“We want Northern Tigers to be a first-choice destination for local players and once they’re in, we want them to stay so that if players from the outside want to get in they can see it is a competitive environment. Ultimately, I think that’s healthy in the long term”.
As demonstrated by the goals for the future published in the aforementioned Strategic Plan, for Eagar and everyone involved, transparency is key to the everyday running of the club.
“Certainly, integrity is a big one. So, whatever level we promise to players, parents, coaches and the wider community, we make sure we follow up on it and deliver. That ties in with being honest and up front with everybody so that they know where they’re at. And transparency I guess as much as possible as well. Just being transparent with the way we do things and being open. We’re quite proud of what we do and how we do it and we certainly have got nothing to hide behind. So, we certainly try to be as transparent as possible in all our dealings and with all our stakeholders”.
The free time offered to Eagar through Covid-19’s impact has given he and the club’s coaching staff a chance to reassess some of the behind the scenes operations at the club.
“It’s been a real opportunity to bring our playing style more to life for our coaches. So, what that means is we’ve been going through a process of reviewing all of our training session plans, documenting them all, linking them back to our football plan and then adding to that video footage from our Tigers’ games. We’ve been pulling apart videos to then link in to our session plans so that coaches can easily look at some video to quickly see what we want to work on. Then they can look at our session plan and how that links in with our football plan, to then develop what we call our ‘Tigers language’, which is the talk and phrases we use to explain things to our players and coaches. It’s been about holistically looking at everything we do and how we can improve our processes so that coaches and players can get more out of everything we do”.
Challenges for the Tigers & grassroots football
For Eagar, having been at the club for an extended period of time, he has learnt that the challenges faced by the NSFA and Northern Tigers are not exclusive, but rather they are universal for football across the country.
“One of the biggest challenges has always been, and it’s topical at the moment, getting everyone aligned. Within our local environment it was fractured over decade and a half ago, for various reasons. But that has improved significantly to the point that local clubs, the association and Northern Tigers are all working very closely together and are on the same page, which is fantastic”.
“Before, local clubs might not have wanted to promote their players to the Northern Tigers and may have wanted to hold on to them. That sort of mentality is definitely disappearing. Likewise, players from the Northern Tigers have been encouraged to go back in to the local clubs as well”.
“I think facilities over the years has been a big one as well. At this point we don’t have a real ‘home of football’. We’re working towards that and the NSFA has done a lot of work and hopefully that will come to fruition in a couple of years. The addition of synthetic fields across the association has made a difference to the quality of the product that all clubs can put out, as well as the attraction to players and coaches. Facilities in the early days was a massive problem but that is gradually getting better and better as well”.
Success with Women’s First Grade & legacy
The success of the Women’s NPL team in recent years has been a testament to the enthusiasm and determination within the club to embody the goal of transforming the team into a real force in NPL 1.
“It’s very satisfying for everyone involved in the Women’s side. Some of the coaches have been involved with the setup for a long time, same as the players and the parents. What is probably most satisfying has been being able to come up to NPL 1 with a strong group of young local players predominantly. Then to see them stay at the club, struggle for a few years in NPL 1, but then thrive in NPL 1, it shows fantastic growth of those individuals but also shows that us as a club are on the right track because we are producing players and coaches that can compete at the highest level in NSW”.
“[In the years before promotion] They were working incredibly hard but they just probably weren’t working smart. The focus was, from an organisational point of view, trying to get everyone aligned in the team and understanding their roles and what we’re trying to achieve. That started to instill some belief that they could do it”.
“I’d say last year we probably had the strongest team that we’ve had, a couple of players came in which helped us be a lot stronger. Player quality obviously helps, as they are also able to help out those younger players lift to another level again. The belief kicked in and as always, it was a snowball effect and as the season rolled on, they got stronger and stronger in terms of the intensity and quality of their play. That certainly all culminated in the Grand Final where we had probably our best performance of the year which was quite satisfying. Even though we fell short in terms of the result, the performance was by far the best of the entire season which was fantastic”.
Written by Matthew Badrov.
Click here to read the NSFA Strategic Plan for 2020-2023.