Not all about the game

Allowing women footballers into the huddle at the Monash Blues has given the club a giant fillip.

BY PETER HANLON

Andrew Young doesn’t view co-captaining Monash Blues through a lens of personal pride. Simply being able to call himself a Monash person is honour enough. 

“I always feel a sense of pride when I hear the name John Monash mentioned outside the Monash community,” the 28-year-old says. “He’s such a massive figure. Having an affiliation with John Monash is something I’m very proud of.” 

His take on leadership echoes the Monash ethos of striving not for self, but for others. “I try to hopefully create an environment to help the young guys who are coming through uni, figuring out where they want to go in life, to guide them the right way to be a decent fellow. It’s not all about the footy.” 

Others have done this for him – when he arrived from Geelong in 2009, and older brother David drew him to the Blues as much on a recommendation of its people as the sport. When he graduated with a Bachelor of Civil Engineering and contemplated switching clubs, good mate and former Blues captain Sam Baring gave him a reason to stay. 

“He basically said: ‘You want to walk out with the club in a better position than when you arrived’.” Young had started in C grade, been down to D and back up again, but knew his work wasn’t done. 

“I just felt there was a lot more I could give back, so when I left I really felt like I’d done something for the footy club that would compare with what they’ve been able to do for me.” 

Now in B grade, he yearns for a premiership and revels in the Blues’ growth. This year it’s been tangible following the introduction of a women’s team, whose enthusiasm emboldens Young and fills co-captain Grace Mills with pride. 

Mills’ father Ian is the coach, a role he has previously held with the Monash men. A secondyear industrial design student, Grace Mills has been around Monash football since she was a small girl. Now she’s right in the thick of it. 

“Dad talks a lot about playing for the jumper – you’re not playing for yourself, you’re playing for your teammates,” she says. “Wear the jumper with pride – win, lose or draw.” 

Convincing wins in all three grading games put the women in division one, a stern test for a building team that includes many who are new to the game. Wins have been rare but they’ve been competitive throughout, and Mills revels in the all-for-one environment that hums with encouragement to do the little things well. 

“I wouldn’t say I’m the best captain necessarily, but I’m enthusiastic,” she says. “It’s a great group of girls to lead out on the field.” 

They have dinner with the Monash men after Thursday night training and recently played immediately after them, creating an atmosphere Mills and her teammates relished. Andrew Young sees a bright new chapter in Monash football unfolding, and it excites him. “It’ll be nice one day to be competing for who gets the two o’clock spot on a Saturday at the Frearson.”