Like father, like son: Tim Friend returns to coach Natimuk United

Wimmera Mail-Times sports journalist COLIN MacGILLIVRAY talks to new Natimuk United senior coach Tim Friend about his thoughts on the merger between Natimuk and Horsham RSL Diggers during the summer.

TIM Friend is something of a football nomad.

Since starting as a junior with then Horsham United in the Wimmera Football League, footy has taken him across the state and, eventually, across the country.

Friend has plied his trade in Horsham, Warrnambool, Kalkee, Laharum, Darwin, Nhill and now Natimuk.

He has occasionally returned to his original club but, in a twist of fate, this summer the club came back to him instead.

Horsham RSL Diggers and Natimuk members approved a merger between the clubs in February, creating the Natimuk United Football Netball Club.

Friend had already been appointed Natimuk’s head coach at the time of the merger and will coach the newly-formed club this year.

The merger is just another twist in his long saga with the Diggers.

Turbulent history

Friend has a turbulent history with his original club and, despite his returns, has left the Diggers four times during his career.

“I started at United as a junior but I had a falling out with some people there so I left, and work took me down to Warrnambool,” he said.

“After that, a couple of mates were out at Kalkee so I thought I’d go out there for a kick and bum around in the twos, but I ended up playing seniors the whole year.

“I stuck it out there for two or three more years after that but then I needed a change so I went back to the Wimmera league with United.”

A one-year stint at Laharum followed his second tenure at Horsham RSL Diggers, before Friend returned to the club a third time.

But after another year there he said he had grown tired of Horsham and needed a change.

A move to the other side of the country proved to be the change he had in mind.

Friend moved to Darwin, and said he enjoyed his two years there immensely.

“I really needed to get out of Horsham so I left and went to Darwin for two years and loved it,” he said.

“I came back to United after that though, because they were struggling by that time.”

It was during Friend’s fourth and final period at the club when tensions came to a head.

“At the end of the year there I approached them about taking on a coaching role,” he said.

“The reason I came back from Darwin was to coach, because I was quite happy up there and I’d probably still be there now if it wasn’t for that.

“United decided to go in a different direction than what I thought they needed to go in, and I disagreed with the decisions they made so I decided to leave again.”

“The reason I came back from Darwin was to coach, because I was quite happy up there and I’d probably still be there now if it wasn’t for that.'' - Tim Friend

It was a tough chapter in the Friend family’s involvement with the club.

Tim’s father Chris was a life member with the Diggers and holds the club record for games played, with more than 400 since the 1980s.

His brother Josh is also a Horsham United stalwart.

Loyalty

But despite his loyalty to the Diggers, Chris said he was never bothered by his son’s falling out with the club.

“I don’t interfere with my two sons, or my daughter for that matter – where they choose to play is entirely up to them,” he said.

“They know I’m United and the majority of my football has been there, but I’m not one of those interfering fathers.

“Tim went and played at Nhill a couple of years ago and I was quite happy for him to do that.”

Chris said he fully backed the merger between Natimuk and Horsham RSL Diggers even though it meant his old club would not exist in its own right anymore.

“A lot of people asked what I thought of the merger with Nati – well how could I argue when my son is coaching there?” he said.

“I think it’s a good thing, because if it didn’t happen we’d be totally gone and we’d be barracking for no one this year.”

Tim said the merger had the added bonus of reuniting his family at one club.

Positive move

He and brother Josh will now play on the same team for the first time in several years.

“I think dad is happy that the clubs have merged – he thinks it’s a positive for both clubs,” Tim said.

“Personally, I think it’s a bit more of a positive for him that me and my brother are back playing together, and playing for the club that he represented for a lot of years.

“My grandmother and grandfather on mum’s side of the family are life members at Natimuk as well, so it’s not as if we didn’t have any family history there either.

“It’s a little ironic that I came home from Darwin with the ambition of coaching Horsham RSL Diggers and now I’m getting that chance in a way.”

“It’s a little ironic that I came home from Darwin with the ambition of coaching Horsham RSL Diggers and now I’m getting that chance in a way.” - Tim Friend

Tim will don the yellow and black of the Diggers for the final time this year.

With the merger only recently approved, Natimuk United has no uniforms of its own and so will alternate between Natimuk and Horsham jumpers.

But the one-time football nomad said his heart and roots were now firmly with Natimuk United.

“I’m at Natimuk, I’m happy, that’s where I want to stay and it’s my home club now,” he said.

“I see myself finishing out at Nati – unlike the old man, I don’t plan on playing forever.”

Smartphone
Tablet - Narrow
Tablet - Wide
Desktop