New Lambton club legend Jim Foley has a way with words and a way with football.
He doesn’t talk a lot but when he does speak it’s worth listening.
Few were prouder this week when New Lambton Football Club wrapped up our third consecutive Northern League One first-grade premiership.
And few on the sidelines have been more instrumental – bar the incumbent head coach himself Tom Davies – in the Eagles earning elevation to the National Premier Leagues Men Northern NSW top-tier next season.
“Premiership success in football is the measure worldwide for all football clubs – first past the post in a regular season,” explains Chris Brain, who is New Lambton’s head of football, and Alder Park Sports Club’s general manager.
“To achieve premierships across three successive seasons is a wonderful testament to the work of our coaches and players.”
A bunch of junior Eagles and parents will never forget the freezing night Jim Foley addressed them after senior training at Alder Park.
The fledglings were chatting about how they were leaving the nest to join to pursue a higher grade of football.
At the time, NLFC couldn’t offer them anything that even slightly resembled a player pathway.
Reach your 12th birthday and your parents had to move you on to another club if you wanted to move up the football ladder.
New Lambton kids were signing with everyone from Broadmeadow Magic to Hamilton Olympic and Adamstown Rosebud to Lambton Jaffas to get a taste of premier football.
“What’s your football dream?” gaffer Foley asks the starry-eyed lads.
Not wanting to say the wrong thing, you can almost hear the young players thinking under their chilled breaths.
“Winning a first-grade premiership,” one of them pipes up.
Jim replies: “Yes, everyone wants to win a premiership.”
“Okay, now close your eyes and imagine holding the trophy above your head and now look down … look down and tell me what socks you are wearing.
“I’ll tell you … you’re wearing New Lambton socks. How do I know? Once a Golden Eagle, always a Golden Eagle!”
Foley makes a habit of making football fables come true. A life member, the club medal carries his name and he’s long been regarded as one of the North’s best coaches.
But he was also a player of distinction. Part of a legendary 1960s New Lambton South side that went through the junior ranks undefeated, he struck further as a standout in the New Lambton senior squad that collected the club’s last first-division title in 1974. His father, James Snr, was the manager of that famous outfit and is credited with composing the team’s victory song.
Jim Foley who went to coach in the national league, returned to the Eagles fold as head coach and club academy coordinator in late 2017 – after the re-formed and reunited club marked its centenary – but there wasn’t a whole lot to celebrate, not initially anyway.
“We entered this division with 100 years of fractured history behind us, loads of talented kids and a plan to go higher,” Chris Brain recalls.
“Some forget that we finished 2018 in ninth, then Jim Foley redeveloped the group to finish sixth in 2019. This same group went onto win in 2020 and, with limited changes in personnel we saluted in ’21 and now ’22.
“We’re a real family club; full of juniors who are keen to succeed but now that the club is being promoted more of our juniors will be able reach the top level without leaving home.
“Young lads, keen to succeed, surrounded by juniors, enjoying each other’s company at a club that supports its teams from under-13s to first grade.”
Brain says the success of New Lambton – on the verge of another premier club championship this season – comes down to a “tremendous team effort”. He pays tribute to senior coaches, managers and officials, including Tom Davies, Tonny Jensen, Paul John, Patrick Armstrong, Brendan McGuiness, Paul Robertson, Joel Hartcher, Geoff Ackerman, Dave Caldwell and Mat Packer.
First-grade captain Corey Nicholas echoes the sentiments, saying he is honoured to have skippered the Eagles to a rare threepeat.
“On behalf of the players, we are extremely thankful to all the members and supporters of this brilliant club – this is, and always will be, an amazing achievement!” he says.
Head coach Davies says he is a grateful to work with such a dedicated playing group and coaching staff.
“We look forward to playing more finals football this year,” he says.
And don’t forget to wear your club socks!