The Crown Jewel

Monday, July 9, 2018 - 2:02 PM

Acclaimed poet and philosopher, Kahlil Gibran once mused, “perhaps time’s definition of coal is the diamond”. Which is just an eloquent way of saying given the right conditions and enough time, everything and everyone has the potential to develop great worth.

As Swan Districts bids farewell to an invaluable employee, Nicole Graves, who today begins her role as the newly crowned General Manager of Women’s Football for Carlton Football Club, the Swans’ are proud to have provided an environment conducive to cultivating Graves’ talent and the honing of her skills in all facets of coaching and management.

Integral to the Swans’ success in regional community and education development as well as WAWFL pathway and player development, Carlton CEO, Cain Liddle’s public declaration of delight in discovering a “true gem in Nicole” is understandable albeit misleading given her patina took more than ten years in the making.

In 2008, Swan Districts appointed Graves as the General Manager of V Swans, the club’s community and education division, providing her the opportunity, scope and resources to assist the club implement programs that would develop the talent of regional and Indigenous youths and empower them to realise their academic potential. Over the last decade, Graves has driven the growth of V Swans from a staff of one to a 23-person team that has designed, developed and delivered innovative, educational and personal development programs that have positively impacted the lives of thousands of young people, their families and community members residing in remote areas of WA. Utilising sports as a vehicle to keep youths engaged in learning and as a pathway to acquiring nationally recognised sports industry qualifications, V Swans have increased student retention and the number of high school graduates that are work-ready or continuing onto further education. Under Graves’ leadership, V Swans’ sports education programs have become one of the most successful regional football initiatives in Australia.

Alongside her V Swans management role, Graves has also spent the past decade overseeing the building of the women’s teams and assisting the Swans fulfil their quest to set benchmarks in the development of female football pathways in WA.

‘It’s important we continue to develop young players and support Swan Districts and other clubs to provide pathways for females wishing to become elite athletes in our great game’ Graves said.

With the support of the Swans, in 2009, Graves became the first female to be eligible and successful in completing the AFL level 3 Coach Accreditation. She then coached Swan Districts’ women’s teams to three grand finals in a row, winning back-to-back premierships in 2013 and 2014. In 2014, Graves was named Swans District Senior Coach of the Year.

In 2016, the club assigned V Swans the responsibility of female football and committed greater resources to the development of professional women’s football league pathways. This led to the establishment of a Female S2S Academy that provided opportunities for more than a dozen young women in the Pilbara region. Additionally, the Swans, in collaboration with V Swans and the WAFC’s Swans District also developed a program that emulates the Swans’ WAFL structure that will build on current junior girls programs, increase all-female Auskick centres and provide a full pathway for participation in community club and state-based competitions.

In 2017, Graves was appointed Director of Coaching and Female Pathways Development Coach to oversee the continued development of female football. That same year, Graves also coached Swan Districts’ female teams to their history-making clean sweep of the WAWFL Grand Finals, where they won all three premierships at Rogers Cup, Reserves and League levels. Subsequently, 2017 also saw Graves honoured as a Life Member of Swan Districts Football Club for her service to the club in coaching and player development.

Thanks to Graves’ invaluable expertise, knowledge and support, Swan Districts proudly become one of only three clubs in Australia to see more than 12 players drafted to the AFLW competition for 2017. Having experienced and empathised with her disappointment as AFLW opportunities bypassed Graves’ in 2017, the club is delighted that Graves’ contribution to women’s football and its great worth is being rewarded and that 2018 her time to shine.

“I thank the Swan Districts Football Club for their support both on and off the field in my career … hopefully I can provide opportunities in the east coast for young West Australian women”.