Pubished on 7 September 2022

By David Nagel

Captain and coach hoisting a premiership cup – high into September sky – is one of the most symbolic images in football.

It’s the precise moment when all the hard work behind the scenes has paid off, when the on-and-off field leaders – the orchestrators of success – get to experience the ultimate feeling in football.

If Tooradin-Dalmore is to take the final step to glory, and hoist this year’s premiership cup…it will be captain Jordan Kelly and coach Lachie Gillespie that will enjoy that split-second euphoria before being swamped by teammates on the dais.

Both men…well they are Tooradin through and through!

They have toiled through the tough times at Tooradin, both experiencing devasting family tragedies, and the loss of great mates, to stand on the precipice of glory.

Hoisting the cup together – it would be something else.

The Seagulls last senior premiership was 25 years ago, with that 1997 success being followed by a losing grand final appearance against Beaconsfield in 1999.

A teenage Lachie Gillespie wore the Seagulls colours that day, fully expecting that dream run to continue through the journey of his playing career.

“I did the same thing as these guys, playing as a 17-year-old in the ’99 grand final, and I thought it was easy and we were going to do it every year, and it just didn’t happen,” Gillespie said, just minutes after the Seagulls second semi-final win over Phillip Island on Saturday.

“It feels bloody awesome now, because I played in that one and know how exciting it is and what an honour and privilege it is to be there.

“I will be telling the players what a great opportunity they have before them, but as long as they’re embracing it and enjoying it and have no regrets, I’ll be proud of them no matter what, and everyone will be happy.

“That’s my message to the boys, enjoy the moment, don’t have any regrets, and what will be will be.”

So, has he allowed himself to drift forward and think about the ramifications of guiding the club to its first premiership in 25 years?

“Not really, because I’m a general pessimist and always think worst-case scenario, but I’m just glad that we’re here as a club,” Gillespie said, with bigger picture in mind.

“The seniors and reserves being in the grand final is a big thing for our community, the 18’s are one win away…so I feel like the tide has turned at Tooradin regardless of result.

“It’s such a great feeling, but my eye is now on doing everything I can to help our boys experience the best feeling in football.

“But we’re going in the right direction, which is more important than me dreaming about what might be in two weeks’ time.”

Standing by Gillespie’s side is the Seagulls’ unassuming on-field leader.

A precise communicator in defence, Kelly has settled perfectly into the role after some early doubts about his standing at the club.

The inclusion of high-profile imports like Brent Macaffer, Adam Oxley, Piva Wright and Blake Grewar, well it only added to the anxiety!

“When it first happens, you feel a bit embarrassed,” Kelly admitted, from outside the changerooms.

“Caf’s (Macaffer) played in an AFL premiership, so should I really be telling him what to do – but it’s been great.

“I’m super-tight with all those boys, we’re open and honest with each other, they make you feel welcome and even though I’m the leader, we’ve got a lot of leadership on the team.

“My job is to simply keep the team up, because I feel like when we bring our energy our best is pretty good and that’s when we play our best footy.

“It’s a pretty easy job with these boys, they’re all self-driven and really hungry for success.

“I’ve been here for a long time now and we’ve worked really hard to get better.

“It all feels worth it now but there’s still one massive step to go.”

Kelly said it was great for the club to be back in premiership contention.

“It’s very exciting and changes the feel around the place a lot,” he explained.

“Off field we’ve always been such a close bunch, but unfortunately, we couldn’t get it going on-field.

“It’s taken a long time to get there, to build our depth, execute game plans and things like that…it’s a totally different place now and it’s exciting to be a part of.”

Tooradin-Dalmore will take on either Phillip Island or Warragul Industrials in the West Gippsland Football Netball Competition grand final at Garfield on Saturday 10 September.