On Saturday mornings, Kerry Conquest makes her way down to Adamstown Oval bright and early.
Once the nets are up, the corner flags are in and the kids are out playing, she’ll often stop, step back and take it all in.
If you took a picture, the scores of kids wearing the famous green and red of Adamstown Rosebud would fill the frame. The laughter, cheering and celebrations filling the air.
It is what she loves most about volunteering.
Northern NSW Football is celebrating 2022 National Volunteer Week from 16 to 22 May. It is a chance for our football community to recognise the vital work of volunteers and say thank you.
To celebrate, we launched our It’s Good 2 Give Back campaign with everyone in the northern NSW football community invited to take part.
Conquest’s association with Adamstown Rosebud JFC started 14 years ago. She had just moved to the area and sent her resume out to as many clubs as she could find. She wanted to be a coach. But only one club replied.
“I ended up starting with an Inter-District under-12s team at Adamstown. Over the years it went from one to two to three teams. And then the WPL started up,” Conquest said.
In the early days of the NNSWF Women’s Premier League competition first grade matches in each round were played at the same ground. Conquest was asked to be the ground announcer for matches where Adamstown were the host club. It was her foot in the door.
“In those days I was still coaching ID teams and helping around the place doing coaching sessions for kids. I wasn’t on the committee or anything, just a person at the club,” Conquest said.
“Then they introduced the younger age groups and the club asked me if I would coach their first under-14s team in WPL. I ended up with the 14s and 17s and we won quite a few premierships.
“Then about six or seven years ago the club was in dire straits. The lady running things at the time was quite elderly and had enough. She wanted out. They put the call out for people to form the next committee and I was asked to be the treasurer because I had a banking background.
“I said I was going to do it for 12 months to get the club back on an even keel. And those 12 months turned into seven years.”
Of that original committee, Conquest is the only remaining member. These days she holds the treasurer, secretary, NPLW, JDL and club coaching co-ordinator roles and football operations manager roles. She also has a position on the NPLW standing committee.
Conquest has seen countless challenges to attracting and maintaining volunteers. She has dedicated a significant part of her life to her club and wants it to thrive long after she has gone.
“The main problem is that a lot of people don’t want to volunteer anymore. Which is a sad thing. I do worry. I won’t be there forever and I worry about what will happen to it when I’m gone,” Conquest said.
“I spend 50 hours per week easily on Adamstown. I still work but I spend more time on Adamstown than my paid job. I’ve got a room at my house full of all their stuff because there is nowhere else to store it. It has got strips, gear, balls, trophies… we call it the Adamstown room.
“I don’t do it because I want to be patted on the back and told what a marvellous person I am… I’m there for the kids.
“Monday nights I have off but every other night of the week and weekends I’m down at the ground. It becomes all encompassing. It wears you down sometimes. Sometimes you think why am I doing this?”
But Conquest has no regrets. And the rewards far outweigh the challenges.
She describes Adamstown as her home.
“Going down there on a game day, once the fields are set up and the kids are playing, just seeing them, you stand back looking at it and that’s what makes it all worthwhile,” Conquest said.
“Adamstown Park on a Saturday morning when it’s all set up, it’s organised chaos. There’s people everywhere. Everywhere you look out you can see our green and red. And the kids are having a great time. That’s what it’s all about.
“From that little seed where we started from to where we are now, it’s amazing. We’ve got five [NPLW] age groups, we started with one team. We’re the only original club left in [the competition]. Everyone else has merged or gone.
“We’ve got four girls [Maddy Howard, Leia Puxty, Josie Morley and Mia Bales] in the Matildas pathways. You see some of the younger girls that look up to them and the looks on their faces, it could bring a tear to your eye.
“Football is a blessing because I’ve got to go to a lot of places and enjoy a lot of people’s company. In some ways it’s a pain, I’d have a lot more spare time without it. But I can’t say I regret it. I’m glad the club is where it is now, it’s in a much better spot than where we found it.
“I’ve been approached by many other clubs over the years to go there with some tempting offers but I’ve always said no. Adamstown to me is like home. I spend as much time there as I do my own home. I’ll be sad when I retire but I have so many wonderful memories and stories from football and volunteering.
“As much as it drives you up the wall sometimes, I look at what we’ve actually achieved. It means so much.”