WELL-DRILLED: Janie McCullagh won the AFL Queensland female coach of the year award.
WELL-DRILLED: Janie McCullagh won the AFL Queensland female coach of the year award. Rob Williams

Reward for service to youngsters

TWENTY-two years in the army taught former Northern Territorian Janie McCullagh plenty of valuable attributes for sport.

She's put her leadership and communication skills from the military to good use during years of coaching Aussie rules.

Since joining the Ipswich Cats for the first time this season, McCullagh has been a huge asset working with juniors.

However, it was McCullagh's caring approach during the 2012 season that helped her secure a prestigious AFLQ award recently.

The Ipswich under-14 mentor was named female coach of the year at the state awards dinner in Brisbane.

"It was quite a surprise just to be nominated and to get the award is a huge honour," she said.

"It's all about the kids.

"Especially at this age group, it's not only about just coaching and support, you play like a bit of a nurturing mother role to a lot of the kids and some of the challenges that they are going through being young teenagers."

After growing up in Melbourne, McCullagh worked in the army in Darwin and Katherine. The football fanatic and her husband Grant moved to Ipswich in January.

Although Janie is now a civilian, Grant is in the airforce based at Amberley.

They have made Ipswich their new home, living at Eastern Heights with their 16-year-old daughter and son Toby who played in the successful Cats under-14 Division 4 side.

McCullagh played a leading role guiding the young team to the grand final where they lost to more seasoned opponents Mt Gravatt.

"That was a huge achievement," McCullagh said.

"Taking on the (coaching) role proved to be a bigger challenge than what I thought. But with the help of some fantastic parental support, under-16s coach Scott Salter and the club (president) Steve Shepherd and the crew, we got through the tough time.

"I'm new and they thought 'who is this woman from Darwin?' but it was gathering that trust and we had that focus."

She's already thinking about next season where she hopes to again coach the under-14 boys.

However, the Collingwood fan's thoughts are also focused on a new under-18 competition being touted in the region as soon as next year.

A recent QT story told how the Greater Western Suburbs AFL team is looking to create a feeder club in the area.

Collingwood Park coach Rex Watts has been working with other Aussie rules officials on the project.

"I love the concept," said McCullagh who got to know Watts through her field umpire duties.

"He's another man that has an excellent vision about the pathway for junior football in this region.

"Only time will tell but I've given him and the club my support and I would like to work with what they are doing.

"The players are still registered with Ipswich but there's that pathway to go through.

"I'm hoping to have a part to play on their committee so I can work as a liaison between the two clubs."

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