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Five years without a loss - only pandemic can slow this Qld footy team


Nestled deep in the rugby league heartland of central Queensland, the Yeppoon Swans A-grade side is hot on the heels of a 44-year-old Australian record for the most consecutive wins in Aussie rules.

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Yeppoon’s Swans senior side last lost a game in 2015. Officially, they have recorded 77 wins in a row.

It is the second-longest winning streak in Australian rules football, according to one sports historian.

The record of 88 consecutive victories was set by former Adelaide Hills team Heathfield-Aldgate United between 1971 and 1976.

If the 2020 season had gone ahead as normal, and the Swans had continued to win each game, the team could have surpassed the record by June this year.

But the record is safe for now, with country football on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In the meantime, the Swans are keeping fit, ready to dive back into the season and chase down the all-time Australian record.

Some Swans have never lost a game

A-grade captain Matt Wallin said some of his teammates had never lost a game with the Swans.

“We’ve got a few people who have come new to town and new to footy and that sort of stuff, so if they didn’t play in the 2015 season and they’ve managed to hang on for the next four they haven’t lost a game,” he said.

But he said it hadn’t always been that way.

“I always remind the boys as well that it hasn’t been like this forever, there’s been plenty of times where we’ve been on the other end of it and years where we weren’t playing finals, and we were going to Boyne Island and getting flogged and that sort of stuff as well,” he said.

A-grade coach Mark Wallin said there was no secret ingredient to the team’s success in recent years.

“Our secret is a committed bunch of footballers who just love being fit and healthy and want to win,” he said.

“No one gets paid at Yeppoon Swans, it’s all volunteers and the love of the game, which makes it even sweeter really.”

Wallin said the club’s leadership had introduced a Key Performance Indicator system, to make sure the team kept kicking goals.

“We set certain standards on the KPIs that we want to try and meet,” he said.

“And you know you’ve got the players when the first thing they do is come in and look at the board, they don’t even look at anybody else, they look at the board to see if they’ve met their targets.”

Hopes record would inspire other teams and players

In 2017, Queensland Rugby League classified Rockhampton as a growth area for participation. But Australian rules participation in the region was also growing according to governing body AFL Queensland.

In the Capricornia region, across all age groups, the sport has more than 11,700 participants.

AFL Queensland CEO Dean Warren said Yeppoon was an exemplary club.

“Yeppoon has done extremely well both on and off-field, they’ve got great leadership, a really strong committee, they’ve been well coached for a period of time, and really they’ve got the Capricornia coast to themselves a little bit, they’re a one-team town if you like,” Warren said.

But he said the team’s on-field success may signal an imbalance in the local competition.

“Whilst the record is great, it’s probably not a record, to be really brutally honest with you, I’d love to see in Queensland,” he said.

“Because it means that Yeppoon have dominated a competition for four or five years and, from a competitive balance point of view, we’d like to see more clubs win and be competitive.”

Record holders a ‘champion team’

Country football historian Peter Lines has studied football leagues around Australia to compile the all-time consecutive wins list.

The four-time author said the current record-holding team, Heathfield-Aldgate United, came into existence during the 1960s.

“It was basically formed from two very ordinary teams,” he said.

“Heathfield merged with Aldgate and became a powerhouse team that won about nine premierships from the early 1960s right through to the 70s.”

Lines said, on the surface, there was nothing outstanding about the club.

“Just a group of blokes that stuck together, more a champion team rather than a team of champions,” he said.

He said the successful country football teams were great assets to the communities they were based in.

“It’s like each small community winning a premiership each year — it’s a boost for the community,” he said.

Heathfield-Aldgate United ceased existing when the club merged with Stirling to become the Mount Lofty Football Club.

Second place ‘not the end of the world’

Yeppoon Swans senior coach Mark Wallin said his team was preparing to get back out on the paddock.

He has set all players at the club a goal of collectively running 300km before the end of the month.

“We feel if we get a start to play footy again, it’s going to happen really quickly,” he said.

“I’ll be glad when either it’s over and done with, we’ve got it or we haven’t, and we can go back to coaching and playing footy just on a weekly basis.

“If we get the opportunity to do it, we’d love it, but it’s not the end of the world either.”

– ABC / Jemima Burt

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