In Darren Ah See’s mind the Wellington Cowboys overachieved in Group 11 this year.
But that doesn’t mean the pressure is off in 2019.
After a few seasons in the doldrums a rejuvenated Cowboys made great strides on and off the pitch this year and Ah See, returning as the club’s president, is eager to see even more done next year.
Ah See was confirmed as president for a second year at the Cowboys’ recent AGM while the club’s coaching staff have also been announced.
Aidan Ryan returns as first grade mentor but this time he will be joined as co-coach by Justin Toomey-White.
Toomey-White is unlikely to feature on the field as he is currently undergoing treatment for bowel cancer but Ah See was delighted to have the Group 11 captain-coach take on the role.
“Aidan is still relatively new to the high level coaching role so with Justin there will be the good balance,” Ah See said.
“Justin is professional and he lives and breathes football. He’s played lower grades in the NRL and in the NSW Cup and he’s got a wealth of experience.
“But on top of that he’s a local and a good bloke and he’s real role model for others to look up to.
“When you’re trying to change the culture you need those players who others respect.
“He’s an integral part of the club as coach and if we got him back on the field then it would be a bonus.”
Toomey-White and Ryan will be out to help the Cowboys go one better than this year, where they were knocked out by eventual premiers Forbes in the preliminary final.
It was a painful defeat after such a successful season but Ah See was incredibly proud of the efforts.
“We had a good year and we overachieved as far as I’m concerned but we can build on that,” he said.
“We want a strong community and a strong club and that can breed success. We’ll be up there for a few years to come yet.”
The focus remains on development both on and off the field and in terms of the playing group Ah See said the club was keen to add some strength in the forward pack before season 2019.
He also confirmed the club has had some conversations with former NRL star Travis Waddell about potentially linking up with the club.
However, with the one-time Canberra Raider, Newcastle Knight and Brisbane Bronco now based in Sydney with a young family any move is still far from certain.
The high profile signing like Waddell’s would be a boost for a side which may be without Toomey-White’s class on the field while Ah See confirmed young gun Brock Naden may depart following interest from “a couple” of NRL clubs.
While the playing group and performance on the field is vital, Ah See reiterated the fact his club is about much more than that.
The Cowboys made huge strides in regards to community health and well-being last year, working closely with the Wellington Aboriginal Corporation Health Service, of which Ah See is CEO.
“When I went into the president’s job it was never going to be a one-year process,” he said.
“We’re looking at building over a few years and creating a culture where if I or a coach should move on then the club can keep building.
“We want to assist and support the health and well-being of our community and our players.”
The club formed a number of partnerships last season in relation to the promotion of health services including organ tissue donation in the Indigenous community, drug and alcohol awareness, chronic disease, anti-smoking, and much more.
“We want to be able to create a better community for Wellington,” Ah See added.
In terms of other coaching appointments at the club, Wellington legend Mick Peachey is returning to take control of the league tag side, which Graham Blackhall will coach the under 18s, and Chris Ah See will coach reserve grade.
The Cowboys will start pre-season training with a meet-and-greet and registration night at Kennard Park next Thursday, the 29th, from 6.30pm.