UTS Bats Taking Flight

Written by David Redden


UTS Bats are an AFL Sydney club on the move. We recently spoke with Head Coach of the women’s program, Miguel Limson, Head Coach of the men’s program, Kyle Emley and Club Vice-President and Football Director Sam Chadwick.


Miguel Limson – Head Coach Women’s Program

When speaking with Miguel, we asked why, after eleven rounds of the 2022 season, the Women’s Premier Division team had already achieved its most successful season (five wins).

Miguel said: “In the off-season, we worked on improving the depth of our playing list. We felt that we could have been exposed by COVID-19 and the current Winter Series [a selected talent series], so our biggest focus has been to work on our youth pathways. We reached out to junior clubs in our area as well as talented players in the pathways system up and down the NSW Coast, to give them an opportunity to play in our system.

We spoke to Miguel about what must be done to take the women’s program to the next level which includes playing finals and competing for a premiership. Miguel was very clear: “I think the biggest thing that we have had to establish is the internal confidence to be able to handle to competition in the Premier Division. We now have that belief.

“On top of that, going into the 2022 season, we focussed on being able to adapt to be able to win certain game moments. Previously it has been hard for the girls to put their best foot forward and try not to get smashed. We wanted to ensure that our players had the self-belief and confidence to be able to handle the Premier Division.”

Miguel Limson nominated UTS Bats players to watch in their Women’s program: “I am going to highlight a couple of players who have been identified in the talented pathways system recently such as Marnie Robinson who has come across to our club as one of our junior pathways players. Marnie participated in the NAB Academy for Under 17s in Victoria recently, a great achievement for her. Being part of the Academy is seen as a stepping-stone for next year’s AFLW Draft, which is exciting for both Marnie and our Club.

“Grace Hill comes from an elite Netball background, having represented at high levels for the University of Technology Sydney. Grace is in her third season with us, having her previous two seasons cut short by COVID. This year, she has taken her opportunities, with her efforts being rewarded by being asked to represent the GWS Giants in the Winter Series. Grace has played two games in the Winter Series, and she looks like she belongs.”

Miguel went into detail about the Club’s aspirations of the women’s program at UTS. “You can tell that the club has a great culture, with everyone enjoying each other’s company on and off the field. Our biggest focus is to improve our performance base at training and on game day whilst fostering the development of our young players. Pleasingly, we have debuted 10 local juniors in Premier Division in the past two seasons including two from Moore Park Tigers and Maroubra Saints. Ultimately, a lot of this comes down to retaining key players focusing on promoting our junior pathways (with Moore Park Tigers and Maroubra Saints) and leveraging our strong presence in the East of Sydney to build and sustain a strong Premier Division program moving forward.”


Kyle Emley – Head Coach Men’s Program

UTS Bats men’s Head Coach, Kyle Emley, is proud of a men’s program that is clearly building momentum off the back of a vastly improved 2021 (4-6) and 2022 (5 wins already this season); we asked Kyle what the keys have been to this success.

“The Club has had a big culture change over the past couple of seasons,” he said. “Having support from the top of our club down has been very important. For myself, coming from Melbourne, getting to know more about Sydney footy and coming to UTS Bats, as a relative unknown, UTS has previously been known as a very social club.

“I wanted to harness that and in a really great location, but I wanted to focus on a good balance between being a professional and successful football club and having a great social environment for all members. We are growing well as a club through all grades, and we are creating opportunities for young players to improve themselves at Premier Division level as part of the football Club’s longer-term vision.  We are gradually improving on and off the field and will strive to continue this sustained development.”

Kyle spoke about what it will take for the men’s program to progress to the next level which includes playing finals and competing for a premiership: “We really need to grow our presence in the Sydney footy community. We have previously been a transient football club. Because of our eastern suburbs location, we attract many people from interstate some of whom don’t settle with their family and their kids.

“Instead, we have a lot of young professionals coming to the Eastern Suburbs from interstate, which is great, they really make up an important part of the social element of the Club. We are looking to develop our junior pathways in particular with Moore Park Tigers and Maroubra Saints and see some of our Sydney-based talent play Premier Division football in coming seasons.

“I look at other clubs like Pennant Hills, St George, North Shore, UNSW-ES and many others, who I have a lot of respect for as they have worked very hard developing their junior pathways. We really want to grow our youth program, give opportunities to talented players and have people play for UTS for years to come.”

Kyle nominated some UTS players to watch in the Men’s program: “Josh Lee, who is a Canada Bay junior and played Under 19s at Sydney Uni, has come to us for some opportunities and has really flourished. Last year we had seven Under 19s play Premier Division footy. This season we have already had five Under 19s make their Premier Division debut.

“We’ve had young Moore Park Tigers junior and Sydney Swans Academy player Josh Ralph, and Moore Park junior Harley Collias make their debuts this season, as well as three Maroubra Saints juniors over the past two seasons, showing that our pathways development is working well. Against North Shore, we also had 17-year-old ruckman, Liam Gordon, make his debut, which is super exciting for our playing list.”


Sam Chadwick – Vice President and Football Director

On top of the improving Premier Division teams, UTS Bat’s rise includes growth in team numbers for the third consecutive season, enhanced performance across the board and maintaining its Under 19 Division 1 team in season 2022.

Club Vice-President and Football Director, Sam Chadwick, spoke with us about what the club been focusing on as part of the rebuild over the last few seasons: “The Club needed to get its committee and administration structured in the right way to better support the football department. That was the first thing we did back in 2020, with significant reform in how the Committee and broader Club was structured which was focused on our key pillars. Amongst other things, this saw former Club President Kai Mehta and current Club President Adrian Sibbick re-join the Committee.”

The Bats identified a need to invest more (1) into the football program in a sustainable way, and (2) in youth development. “They were the two things we have worked very hard on and clearly have more progress to make. As part of this, we also highlighted the need to invest in high-quality coaching and professional football operations, so we went out to achieve these objectives.”

“We restructured our financial model and secured more commercial partners to enable us to invest more into our footy program, attracting some fantastic football people not least of all our head coaches Kyle and Miguel and experienced football administrator Dean Lee to oversee all football operations. This has also enabled respected club figures David Smith and Kellie Nolan to play important coaching development roles. At the same time, we’ve also worked really closely with UTS Sport to receive continued and greater support to the extent that UTS Sport are now part of the club and no longer just a partner. Our aim is to develop into an elite successful football club in a sustainable manner underpinned by culture, primarily built around youth development, player engagement and leveraging partnerships not least of all UTS Sport’s high-performance support.”

We spoke with Sam about what the club been working to forge strong connections with pathway junior clubs, “we had to get better with what we were doing in this crucial area,” he said. “We are the youngest club in the Premier Division competition. For that reason, we unfortunately don’t have some of the longstanding relationships that some of the other clubs have. Ultimately, we needed to build trust with our junior clubs through those relationships. We have still got a long way to go in terms of providing the best opportunities for those young kids and supporting those junior clubs more, but it’s a give and take relationship between UTS Bats and our junior partners.

We do a lot to support those clubs where possible, our players support Moore Park and Maroubra, particularly in the coaching space. We also take our responsibility to transition young boys and girls into our senior club environment very seriously, both in terms of their player and personal development. We feel that this goes a long way to ensure youth development and to establish meaningful relationships with people at these clubs by providing a good environment.

Three years ago, we established our first Under 19s team in Division 2. They only won one game, but this was a success as it was about setting up a 19s program for the future. Last year, we had our first Under 19s Division 1 team, and they were competitive. We have backed that up with another 19s Division 1 team this year, with some challenges, and how we support this team long-term will be critical to our success.

Sam Chadwick spoke at length about UTS Bats wanting to be a competitive football club at Premier Division level in a sustainable way: “We are not after short-term success. We want to develop people and players. The club has always had a philosophy that you leave the club a better person that when you arrived. We now focus on ensuring people leave both a better person and a better player than when they came in.

“If we do that well, we will continue to develop on and off the field. We have forged an excellent relationship with UTS Sport, as one of their recognised high-performance clubs, they support us in line with their 12 other state league teams in other sports.

Finally, we have worked hard to establish and maintain our presence at three of the best facilities in Sydney; we train and plan at Trumper Park, play at Waverley Oval, and train at Bat and Ball Oval in conjunction with the Moore Park Tigers, where a new amenities block is going up next year. Bat and Ball Oval – which we have made an in-principal agreement to invest in the redevelopment – has a fantastic surface with no cricket block there and we look forward to playing some home games there in the future.”

“The continued growth of the club to 9 teams presents challenges from a venue perspective so it is important we continue to work hard on fostering our relationships with Woollahra Council, Waverley Council and Greater Sydney Parklands. This season has been tough in having only two Premier Division home games so far this season due to wet weather ground closures, but it was fantastic to be able to host a massive Ladies Day at Trumper Park on 25th June.

Sam Chadwick thanked major partner UTS Sport for its holistic support of the club, as well as major sponsor the Golden Sheaf Hotel who have come on board this year during a challenging season of scheduling, as well as Eakin McCaffery Cox, Accounting Evolution and ES Physio, who have been wonderful supporters of UTS Bats for several years, and other key sponsors Body By Brando, BUPA Dental Broadway, Barbetta, Ben Murray Wines, EG Investments, Blue Line Construction and Buddybet