NWFL. Smithton Football Club announced its rebranding from the Smithton Saints to the Circular Head Giants last Thursday in preparation for the 2016 North West Football League season.
The Chronicle spoke with Smithton Football Club president Nic Bellinger on the development.
Why did you feel Smithton Football Club needed to change?
If we don’t change and try new ideas, we become stagnant. We have struggled year in year out to attract new, younger players and hold onto these players. Yes, we have worked on our culture but we felt that the ‘Saints’ needed a full overhaul. With re-branding to the Giants, it allows us to potentially align with the AFL club which has endless benefits for both clubs. The excitement around the development of GWS is hoped to be mirrored into the Smithton Football Club.
Who was involved in the decision making process?
The decision was made by the current board members consisting of a variety of people including life members, long-term club supporters and a two-time premiership player of the club. We also included our senior coach Aaron Tuxworth in the process, as well as talking to AFL Tasmania about the decision along the way. The board is also represented by both males and females.
Were players, members, supporters, CHFA or the general football community consulted on the decision?
As above, the decision was made by the board and yes, looking back we probably could have consulted our members. But in saying that, there are always going to be questions on the process and what the correct process would be. We felt as a board with the variety of people we have, that a decision could be made within this group and that a motion was put forward with all in attendance voting for the change. I think the more people you introduce into a matter, the more difficult you make it to come to a decision. Look at the pool for instance: people are quick to jump to voice their opinions with change, but I believe the people on the council have been elected to these positions to make these decisions and that’s what should be done.
How do you feel a logo and guernsey change will impact the community’s perception of the Smithton Football Club?
We need to remember that we are looking at the long term in this change and it’s about educating the young people that they are not playing for an opposition club to the CHFA. They are playing at the elite level available and representing the district in this, and having our trading name representing that is a great way to start the education process.
The Smithton Football Club is said to retain its name but be promoted as Circular Head Giants. What does this mean?
It means that we are still just the ‘Smithton Football Club’ and trading as the Circular Head Giants. It’s in our constitution that we always be the ‘Smithton Football Club’ and that’s what we will be, which we don’t want to change. It means our history still remains the same as what it does from when the Magpies went to the Saints; it just means it’s under another branding.
Smithton Football Club has faced change before (Smithton Magpies to Saints). Did you take comfort out of that in making the decision?
It was discussed about the football club having been through change before, also many other clubs as well that have been through change as in Burnie Football Club, Burnie Cricket Club, South Launceston Football Club and the Devonport Football Club to name a few. But to say it was a major factor in the end decision, I would say no.
On Thursday night, you spoke about how you would like to create stronger bonds with the CHFA. How do you plan to achieve that?
I think more discussions with the CHFA, and to develop a long-term plan for the future of football in all of the Circular Head region, needs to happen. It’s about changing people’s perceptions and all realising that the CHFA and Smithton Football Club are not in opposition to each other, and working together for the better outcome of all involved is paramount if football is still to be a strong sport in our region. It’s about giving the opportunity to the young people that play football; the best available opportunity to play, at the best level that they possibly can and for all to be encouraging this. And most importantly it’s about doing what’s required so all remaining clubs stay alive, because as seen 12 months ago with the TC Football Club, it has never been harder to ensure all remain alive.
What estimated costs are associated with the change?
Obviously there’s associated costs in new apparel, designs, signage, stationary etc. but to put an actual cost out we don’t believe it’s something that needs to be discussed publicly. I will say though that there seems to be some perception that AFL Tas has opened their cheque book and ‘paid us out’ to make this change, which is incorrect. AFL Tas’ involvement has been just purely to assist with relationship building with the GWS and assisting in any other way asked but financially, no.
Has contact been made with GWS regarding the club’s decision?
The GWS have been contacted and we are in the process of developing a relationship between both clubs. This is where AFL Tas come in to assist in this process, due to having the available contacts and avenues. We are not thinking about financial gain from GWS. As with the Burnie and the Fremantle Dockers club, apparel, footballs, opportunities for coaches and players to be exposed to the AFL system, access to players, coaches to attend our area are all things we would like to experience. This is something we have tried to achieve with St Kilda the past two years, but with no success.
Circular Head is represented as Smithton Saints in other sports such as hockey and basketball – was this taken into account?
The hockey and basketball clubs are a bit different in having their sport at all levels played from the one complex, making the process of having people wanting to strive to play at that coastal level more attractive.
How do you see Circular Head Giants overcoming negative reactions and moving forward?
There are always people that don’t like change and there are always people that don’t agree with any decision, but it’s about concentrating on working with the people that are prepared to accept change. Although we have had some negative comments on social media, the positive comments also on social media, the phone calls and text messages, and general discussions received or had by board members, coaches, players and supporters have by far outweighed the negative sides. It is big change and yes, we expected some to not support it and yes, maybe more could have been consulted. But what we do say is that we are committed to the decision and committed in providing the current and next young generation an exciting development, and we hope the community supports this decision. I would also encourage anyone with any questions about the change to pick up the phone and call me to discuss and set the record straight rather than have incorrect statements flooding our social media outlets.
How do you feel about the change from Smithton Saints to Circular Head Giants?
“I’m disappointed in the way it was done, the members and community weren’t consulted before the decision was made. We had no opportunity to provide our input.”
Haydn Nicholls, Smithton Football Club life member
“We have to change to get more interest in the club and Circular Head footy, it’s still the Smithton Football Club, it’s just the Giants now – not the Saints. Hopefully we are able to build more of a relationship with CHFA.”
Scott “Soupy” Blizzard, Smithton Football Club current games record holder
“I have mixed feelings but it is still the same club, same people, it’s only a guernsey when all is said and done. If it brings benefits to the club and the community, I don’t have an issue with it.”
Brian Farrelly, former Smithton Magpies player
“As a club, our goal is to create an environment that builds successful people not only in football but for life as well. The football club sees this new direction as the best way to achieve that, for now and into the future. As a coach and employee I support them in that.”
Aaron Tuxworth, Smithton Football Club Seniors coach
“I support it 100 per cent. I feel that it shows more respect towards other places like Redpa and Irishtown. We are playing for the whole community, not just Smithton.”
Kurt Foss, Smithton Football Club Seniors player