If you asked Lachlan ‘Lachie’ Lloyd about his love affair with sport growing up, you would learn about a self-described “competitive little bugger”. You would learn about a kid who tried his hand (and foot) at every sport he could.
It was football though, which turned out to be Lloyd’s true calling.
Early days and coming through the ranks at the Tigers
Having joined up with the Tigers’ Under 11s squad from local side Lindfield FC as a ten-year-old, Lloyd quickly understood the difference in quality afforded by the age gap, something which provided to a great learning curve.
“In my first year I probably struggled a bit because I was a 10-year-old against 11-year-olds, and when you’re that young age it is quite a big difference. I was a bit iffy in that first year about whether I enjoyed it or not, but then in my second year I was with the Under 11s and I knew I wanted to stick with it.”
From the Under 11s onwards, Lloyd found himself progressing well through the ranks at the Tigers. It was his Under 15s coach, Gui De Souza, who brought Lloyd and his teammates’ passion for football to a whole new level.
“Gui was awesome for our team as we were a pretty inconsistent age group. We would win a game 9-0 one week and then lose 2-0 the next. He brought it all together for us and he made us a lot fitter, which made a big difference.”
“He brought an overarching joy to it because we would love going to training and to games. He had the idea that you perform best when you’re having fun and we had a lot of fun. Which I guess showed in the results.”
Unforgettable memories of a 54-game unbeaten run which started in the Under 15s and then went on to include a grand final win, a dominant tour of England and a strong year in the Under 16s ranks up high in Lloyd’s litany of achievements with the Tigers.
“Gui kind of gave me the fitness and the bases that I needed and then technically I became a lot better under our current First-Grade coach ‘Hetty’ (Adam Hett) when he was coaching me in the Under 20s. He helped me improve a lot quickly on top of the base that Gui formed for me.”
“It’s currently my third year with him (Hetty), he’s probably getting sick of me!”
The foundations laid in his junior years at the club allowed the midfielder to shine in the older age groups, culminating in a First Grade debut at just 18 and a 2019 grand final win with the Under 20s.
Celebrating Grand Final wins in 2015 and 2019.
“Obviously, it’s always a great day when you make your First Grade debut, I was lucky enough to do it when I was 18 off the bench against Spirit (NWS Spirit FC). It was pretty weird; I had a couple of schoolmates in the crowd and they were just waiting for me to go home with them. They were not expecting me to get on the pitch but then I came on, which was pretty funny.”
“Last year, I was in First Grade and then I dropped down to the Under 20s. It was a strange situation; I started the season playing 20s because I couldn’t get in to the first grade squad. I had a good start with the 20s and after five games I was playing first grade for the rest of the year.”
“After an Under 20s game the coach asked if I’d be happy to play in the finals if first grade didn’t push on in the finals and obviously, I jumped at the chance, because a few of my good mates are in that 20s team. It almost reminded me just how fun it is playing with your mates. Winning any grand final is special, but with a few of your best mates it’s even better and we won it with the last kick of the game.”
Time with the senior team
Lloyd kicked off his tenth season at the club with a wonderfully struck last minute goal for the Tigers, securing a 2-1 win over Bonnyrigg White Eagles to start the season off with a bang.
“To be honest I had a horrific game [leading up to that point]. I’d hardly made a pass all game so I wasn’t down on myself but [as a team] we were obviously frustrated that we conceded in the 88th minute after playing quite well.”
“All pre-season Hetty has been ripping in to me about not getting in to the box enough so as soon as I saw the ball going down the line and no one in the box I thought it was my time to get there and to make sure I’m an option, luckily it came to me and it was probably the best I’ve ever struck a ball!”
“It was a good start to the season and would definitely be in my top three moments at Tigers. It’s just a shame it finished so quickly afterwards.”
COVID-19’s influence on the world and on football has been massive. Only in the last week has a health-first approach in the return to training been deemed doable by Football NSW. For Lloyd, this season was set to be the year where he solidified himself as a part of the first grade setup.
“Last year was my first full year in first grade and I felt that I had learned a lot and was focused on trying to become a better player. I really felt that going in to this year it was my time to step up and try to be a key part of the team. I wasn’t the rookie anymore, I felt I needed to perform week in, week out and get consistency in my game.”
“I was feeling good and fit. I’d had a good pre-season and obviously it was frustrating with all this. But hopefully, if we get back on the field we can get going.”
Growth of club culture
A significant change which has caught the eye of Lloyd as he’s come through has been the club’s renewed approach to youth development and the culture that has been fostered as a result.
“Early on it was definitely more about you as a junior and developing. That was when the club wasn’t really as focused on the culture. Like the First Grade wouldn’t really know anyone in the Under 13s team. I think recently Jason (Eagar) has done an awesome job of changing that attitude.”
“[With] all the junior age groups, even when I was 15 or 16, having a coach who played first grade for the last couple of years saying “this is where you want to get to in three years”, it made a big difference because it gave you a goal, rather than just developing and wondering if you’re actually getting better.”
“[Now it’s about] making sure that the kids understand that there is actually that pathway. Because I know there are always good opportunities for good young players at Northern Tigers to go elsewhere, but if you wait your time and keep working hard, you’ll get a good crack at first grade, which you don’t get at many other clubs.”
A strong club culture has aided in the unification across the entire football department. As First Grade players are taking up more opportunities to coach at the club, so too are kids taking up the opportunity to see their coaches in action.
“Off the field it’s (the club culture) becoming better and better. Even last year, the boys and the girls started supporting each other more and more, which was good fun. For the Women’s Grand Final, we had just lost our semi-final and were pretty down, but we knew we were important to the girls and we made sure we were singing for them. Just small things like that make a big difference”
“Just the fact that there are First Grade and 20s players now coaching the younger generation and our SAP (Skills Acquisition Program), it really brings the club together and puts a name to a face. Now, Under 9s kids come in to watch us just because their coach is playing.”
Although, in spite of the strides taken by the club with its culture, Lloyd knows that a good environment does not automatically assure success.
“For me, the teams that I’ve always done best in are the teams that get along well and have a good culture and you need to be able to have a good culture all the way through. I think it’s also brought a different aspect where we’re able to use it as a drawing card to get better players”.
“But at the same time, culture only takes you so far, you need to get the results on the pitch to be successful and that comes from hard work at training and making sure you’re prepared for the game well”.
“We always talk about how good our culture is and I genuinely believe it is one of the best in the NPL. As a Men’s side especially, we need to keep winning to make sure that we are one of the most successful sides on the pitch as well and to get up to NPL 1, because at the end of the day that is where we want to be”.
Written by Matthew Badrov.