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Sports coaches Whitby, Bartlett say bringin next generation through is what inspires them

Reuben CarderGeraldton Guardian
Jacko Whitby.
Camera IconJacko Whitby. Credit: Geraldton Guardian

Two of the Mid West’s best-known sports coaches say the depth of junior talent is what drives them.

Talented coaches in sports ranging from hockey, squash and shooting to boxing, karate and surf boats have won coach of the year at the Geraldton Guardian Mid West Sports Awards since the award started in 1989.

But for Adrian Bartlett and Jacko Whitby, it’s all about the next generation.

Whitby, the 2004 award winner, has coached athletes in the green-and-gold national uniform at Oceania meets.

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His coaching partner, Perth-based Lindsay Bunn, trains Tokyo Olympian Peter Bol, Paris hopeful and world junior record holder Sasha Zhoya and Mangar Chuot, a South Sudan champion runner and Games hopeful.

Jacko Whitby’s junior athletes with, left to right in the back row, junior world athletics champion and Tokyo Olympics hopeful Sasha Zhoya, elite runner Nixon Hamlet, Olympian and national 800m champion Peter Bol, and Australian and South Sudan national 200m champion Mangar Chuot. In the centre in the middle row, with black T-shirt, is elite athlete Sahara Clarke.
Camera IconJacko Whitby’s junior athletes with, left to right in the back row, junior world athletics champion and Tokyo Olympics hopeful Sasha Zhoya, elite runner Nixon Hamlet, Olympian and national 800m champion Peter Bol, and Australian and South Sudan national 200m champion Mangar Chuot. In the centre in the middle row, with black T-shirt, is elite athlete Sahara Clarke. Credit: Reuben Carder/Geraldton Guardian, Reuben Carder

But Whitby mostly focuses on bringing through local juniors. A straight-talking character, who is a life member of the Australian Track and Field Coaches Association, the equivalent of a gold medal for an athlete, he is determined to bring top-level coaching to regional juniors.

“My focus is make sure the kids up here don’t miss out,” Whitby said.

Sasha Zhoya, right, leads Jacko Whitby’s junior athletes in some exercises in the hot sun in Geraldton. Olympian Peter Bol is in the red shirt and elite athlete Nixon Hamlet, from Fitzroy Crossing, is on the left.
Camera IconSasha Zhoya, right, leads Jacko Whitby’s junior athletes in some exercises in the hot sun in Geraldton. Olympian Peter Bol is in the red shirt and elite athlete Nixon Hamlet, from Fitzroy Crossing, is on the left. Credit: Reuben Carder/Geraldton Guardian, Reuben Carder

Bartlett says the year he won the gong, 2017, was a “glory year” as three junior sides he coached went undefeated.

The Geraldton Sporting Aboriginal Corporation executive officer said while it was nice to be honoured, the bigger prize was bringing young talent through.

“The recognition’s always nice, but it’s just more of a reward coaching young fellas,” Bartlett said.

“It was also recognition for the lean years where we lost by lots. There were a lot of years in my coaching career, and I coached footy for a long time before that.

“It was good to have a good year in the middle of that. I had three pretty talented boys with some pretty good kids alongside them. I had to get one back.”

He said “lean” times included missing out on footy finals with Chapman Valley and going winless for a whole season with a Perenjori side.

But going undefeated with the Olympians under-14s basketball team and repeating the feat with Valley before winning the first-ever local under-14s footy grand final, was a great payoff. The third team was a State Indigenous representative side that competed in Blacktown, NSW.

The sides were built around talent such as junior sports stars Judd McVee and Xavier Wright and Adrian’s son, Richie Bartlett. All three have played colts for East Fremantle since. McVee, a Rovers player in the Great Northern Football League, is a potential chance for a draft spot this year.

Wright has represented WA in basketball through the Binar Indigenous sports academy.

Other winners have included swim coach Angela Scott, basketball coaches Mark Heron and Kevin Jones and a long list of other top local trainers.

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