Leongatha footballer Beau Vernon always wanted to coach a senior team and, despite an on-field accident less than three years ago that left him in a wheelchair, he gets to do that this season.
The 26 year old has been leading his beloved Leongatha Parrots through their pre-season training, ready to get then back into Gippsland League finals action after being absent for two seasons.
Beau said he remained conscious as he lay on the ground after receiving a heavy knock in 2012.
“I remember it because I’ve seen footage but I did remain conscious throughout the whole thing, laying on the ground after a freak accident. It was a pretty scary moment in my life. I knew something was very very badly wrong.”
Beau is now a quadriplegic, having broken his C5 and C6 vertebrae.
“It’s been a lot of hard work and you come across obstacles all the time but you always find ways around things.”
The Leongatha club has been very supportive of Beau but he insists he got the coaching job on merit.
“I’m here because of my football knowledge,” he said.
As for his mobility around the Parrots’ rooms and grounds Beau said, “There’s some work going on around the clubrooms.. just around the doorways, and the coach’s box is being done up so I can get up a bit higher and see the game.
“In my daily life I get around in my daily life in a manual chair. But I now also have an electric chair that allows me to hoon around on the ground! I’m able to do pretty much anything out there.”
Beau’s mind is very much on the job.
“Our playing vision is to continue to improve. Our goal is to make finals and give ourselves a chance to go from there.
“I just want to get the players enjoying footy. Sometimes footy players are rocking up to footy because it’s just something they’ve always done and they may have lost a bit of the enjoyment.”
Assisting Beau in the task is former Collingwood rookie and fellow Gippsland Power graduate Tristan Francis, who had hip replacement surgery last year.
Beau is confident about the Parrots’ future, with some good talent to work with.
“We’ve got some good past-players back at the club, and a few good junior players coming through are looking really good. We’ve got three players trying out with the Under 18 Gippsland Power team.
“We’re going to have a big focus on junior development.”
The same dogged determination that got Beau to this point in his rehabilitation will also drive him to do the best job he can as senior coach of Leongatha.
Other Gippsland League teams should not underestimate the threat posed this season by the Parrots.