Back-to-back premiership coach Beau Vernon has been named head ambassador for Team 22 – an initiative to support people with spinal cord injuries that was launched at the AFL’s Collingwood vs Bulldog game on April 12.
The talented 23-year-old Leongatha footballer was injured in a match against Wonthaggi in 2012, the head high knock left him with a dislocated and broken C5 & C6 vertebrae that crushed his spinal cord. Beau’s body has not made a full recovery, but his spirit never left.
The Robert Rose foundation’s Team 22 campaign aims to raise awareness, as well as $500,000 towards equipment, car/house modification, one-on-one mental health care and sports participation opportunities for people with spinal injuries.
Rose played for Collingwood and Footscray, before he was in a car accident at age 22 that left him a quadriplegic.
He and his father Bob Rose, a Collingwood Football Club legend, both wore the number 22 – leading to the name of the campaign.
Vernon was 23 when he had his accident.
Although a highly talented player, Vernon had little experience coaching prior to his role at Leongatha in 2014, where he started as an assistance coach.
Through an enjoyment-focussed and dedicated work ethic, he coached the team to grand finals in 2015 and 2016 and went on to win against rivals Maffra in 2017.
“Getting players to enjoy their footy is a big part of my coaching, anything you enjoy you will excel at,” he said. “Building confidence and understanding that winning is sometimes the best encouragement.”
Vernon is now happy to be coaching closer to his home in San Remo.
Coaching his home side Phillip Island to a premiership win in 2018 was a big feat that Vernon strives to reach again this year.
“So far this season we haven’t come up against any identifying challenges. We have a few changes from last year with young players like Billy Taylor, Brodie Anderson, Max Mattock, Connor Thompson and Daniel Bourke. It’s an exciting time,” he said prior to round three.
Phillip Island resident Eli Richards returned to his home club with the desire to play under Vernon.
“People want to play for him and that helps create a good close group, he makes it enjoyable and makes the effort to get to know people,” the recent recruit said.
Vernon also works at Wings for Life, Interact, Headspace, is a motivational speaker and farther of two.
He is a national youth ambassador for Headspace and takes an active role in maintaining his own mental health.
“Everyone understands you need exercise to stay physically healthy, mental health is similar. Anyone has his or her own challenges, mentally we need to know what we can control and not allow negative thoughts to gain traction,” he said.
Vernon is passionate about sharing support that he has received with others, and the Team 22 motivation is to allow other people with spinal cord injuries to participate in activities such as hand-cycling, surfing, golfing, fishing, kayaking and more.
To donate visit shoutforgood.com/team-22