Coburg's Peter McEvoy was selected as the captain of the VFL Team of the Year. (Photo: Coburg FC)

VFL Captain of the Year Peter McEvoy has grown to understand just what it means to be a leader since he first joined the Coburg leadership group in 2016.

Coburg Lions captain Peter McEvoy received what he describes as a “massive honour” in October’s VFL/W Awards.

Recognised as the competition’s ultimate leader, he was named as the captain of the Team of the Year after being selected at centre half forward.

By his own admission, he was never a player that was more athletically gifted than his peers at junior level. He had to work through the VFL development league with the Box Hill Hawks, proving himself capable of taking on the next level after winning the league best and fairest and goalkicking awards in 2014.

What continued to drive McEvoy forward was a desire and determination to be the best player he could be, and help others achieve the same.

It was one of the reasons he was initially named co-captain of the Lions alongside Ryan Exon in 2019. After serving his apprenticeship as vice-captain under Tom Goodwin for two years before the ruckman’s departure for Port Melbourne, he was chosen alongside Exon.

Though he’s been given limited opportunity to lead his team in the past two seasons, McEvoy has felt himself grow into the role accordingly.

It’s helped him to discover a passion, both within footy and outside of it in his professional business career.

“One of my real passions in life is educating people, and helping develop – especially young guys – not just in football, but in life skills, and helping them be the best versions of themselves,” McEvoy told The Inner Sanctum.

“It’s incredibly rewarding, and that’s what gives me quite a lot of joy.

“From a footy perspective, I’m very happy to not be heavily involved in the game, but if I can communicate and educate my teammates and help us win games of footy, that’s what it’s all about.”

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Captaining a VFL side, with players constantly joining and leaving whether that be back to local leagues, other state leagues, or taking the next step up to the elite level, it’s a balancing act of a dozen different desires and goals.

While for some it’s the highest level they’ve played at for the first time, for others it may be just a small part of their footballing journey.

The Round 1 team that took on Frankston featured 11 players that were either new to Coburg, or the VFL as a whole. This included fellow Team of the Year selectee and former Swan Jack Maibaum, who McEvoy praised for his compassion off field, but extreme competitiveness on it.

Bringing together all those different perspectives is just one part of his role at the top.

“There’s so many things that get thrown at you that you don’t expect, and [it helps] having experience and being able to deal with those challenges and different situations as they arise, and trying to keep all 40 of us on the list heading in the same direction and support everyone,” McEvoy said.

“Whether it’s guys who are struggling to get a game and are really frustrated, to guys are the best couple of players in your team, making sure they understand the exact focus we have on the team and to keep getting better and challenging yourself.”

The Team of the Year honour

Though he’s received individual honours before, it’s not something McEvoy has come to expect.

Being a captain means shifting your focus from the self to the team. Kicking 22 goals in 10 games – including two hauls of four – and finishing ninth in the VFL goalkicking (seventh for VFL listed players) meant his selection was never in doubt.

“I was incredibly shocked and humbled to the core,” McEvoy said on his selection.

“I certainly didn’t expect to get any kind of accolade or individual glory or anything like that. I was completely humbled, and incredibly grateful too.

“The more I reflect on it, the more proud I become of the achievements I’ve been able to do individually, but more the fact that the leaders from the other clubs feel that I am doing a good job of leading our group and leading our team towards success – building the profile of the club to become more successful.”

Though it means a lot to McEvoy now, premiership success is still at the forefront.

“In time, I’ll become really proud of that achievement. I would also love more than anything for our club to make finals and win finals, and be there in September.”

The road to finals footy in 2022 for Coburg will then be one built on what was already laid out in 2021.

Though the Lions finished with a 3-7 win/loss record, what may have looked on the surface a dismal season was one filled with steady improvement.

Coburg defeated their fellow Lions in Brisbane in its first trip interstate in the restructured competition, which was a landmark day in the club’s history.

“The mateship and the comradery you get from travelling together as a team and that being an exciting new adventure – for most of us the first time we’ve travelled as a football team interstate – it was a really good experience,” McEvoy said of the Queensland trip.

“I was incredibly proud of the way we were able to play and execute in pretty difficult conditions that day. It was really special to win.”

2021 AFL Mid-Season Draft Preview - The Official Website of the Coburg  Football Club
Coburg and Brisbane did battle in torrential Queensland conditions in May. (Photo: Coburg FC)

Coburg also defeated Port Melbourne and Carlton in strong performances. They would lose by narrow margins to Collingwood, North Melbourne, the Northern Bullants, and Williamstown.

The Collingwood and Williamstown matches were particularly disappointing, falling just short of teams that ultimately qualified for the cancelled finals series.

While two time Team of the Year inside midfielder Marcus Lentini departs, the Lions have re-signed 26 players including McEvoy. The full list of 26 as follows:

Luke Nelson, Jesse Corigliano, Jacob Ballard, Sam Lowson, Ryan Exon, Harry Nolan, Tom Silvestro, Ryan Sturgess, Mitch Podhajski, Luke Bunker, Peter McEvoy, Braedyn Gillard, Corey Ellis, Jack Maibaum, Nathan Boucher, Jhye Baddeley-Kelly, Tom McKenzie, Adam Swierzbiolek, Charlie Thompson, Josh D’Intinosante, Ben Overman, Aaron Clarke, Ben Reddick, Liam Whelan, Ben Jepson and Nathan Howard.

They’ve also welcomed new players including Calder Cannons graduate Riley Mason, former VFL Bomber and Blue Daniel Guccione, key forward Edyn Sibbald, Box Hill Hawk Lachlan Walker and former AFL key defender Sam McLarty.

McEvoy sees the additions and departures and how they affect the road to finals not just for what they are, but for how they reflect on the club in his time there.

“When I think about that… I think of more of a five or six year journey for us, and for what we’ve been through,” he said.

“We’ve been so focused on our journey at the club from humble beginnings in my time, when we had huge list turnover back in 2016-17, to then learn to be competitive and build the right culture and values, and the right focus on team first approach.

“As a leadership group, and with Sturge [coach Andrew Sturgess] and Seb [Spagunolo] we’re really building towards having that environment where it’s an incredibly team first approach, you play your role for the team not for yourself, and not for the individual.

“That’s given us a huge stride in improvement over the past year or two.

“There were so many close games where we easily could have won. We take a huge amount of belief as a group from that, and certainly think that we’ll be climbing up the ladder and being a lot more competitive again in 2022. The ambition and the belief and the confidence in what we can achieve as a group and as the club is certainly there.

“As a club, we’ve been deprived of success for a long time. We’re 100% hungry and we’re ready to get that extrinsic success on the honour board at Coburg.”

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