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AN INTERVIEW WITH AUSSIE

Kade Klemke #1 and Josh Bryce #5, Could They Have Imagined?

​​Presented by Tiger champion, Tony 'Aussie' Wynd

'Boys from the Bush!'

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Kade Klemke

1st Grade Coach 2012 – 2016, 2023

1st Grade Co-Coach 2021 -2022

1st Grade Premiership Player – 2012, 2015, 2020, 2022

1st Grade Best and Fairest – 2013, 2014, 2015

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Josh Bryce

1st Grade Assistant Coach 2012, 2013

1st Grade Premiership Player – 2012, 2020, 2022

1st Grade Best and Fairest – 2017, 2020

1st Grade Captain – 2017 - 2022

When the young Kade Klemke met the equally young Josh Bryce after they were both picked in the Riverina Under 12s representative cricket team, the pair could never have imagined that their friendship would be a major factor in their lives for the next 20 years (and counting) and lead them to being co-coaches of the Queanbeyan Tigers football club. Nor could Kade have known it would lead to him having to solve a mystery around the cause of a cold shower about 10 years later.

Following the cricket carnival, the two young sportsmen would team up again in junior representative football teams from under 15s through to the under 18s with the Murray Bushrangers with Kade captain and Josh vice-captain. They also had two years together with the NSW/ACT RAMS team. Subsequent to their under 18 campaigns, Kade was drafted as a rookie by Essendon and spent the 2009 season with the Bombers, while Josh moved to Melbourne to play with the Werribee Tigers for the next three years.

By mid-2010 Kade had returned home to Henty due to his father being ill and was coaching Culcairn in 2011, before his 21st birthday. Following the 2011 season, Kade was talking to Belconnen about the Magpies’ vacant senior coaching position. Meanwhile, former Tiger’s premiership player and Culcairn local, Steve Brand, had informed Ronald ‘Chook’ Fowlie that Kade was both a quality individual and player and Chook should lift his game and contact Kade immediately, if not sooner.

Before long Chook was driving to Henty where he interviewed Kade. Always one to want to make a good first impression, Chook had arranged the meeting to take place at the very best table at the local petrol station! Despite the salubrious surroundings, Chook managed to convince Kade that the Queanbeyan club would be a good option for him. “I was impressed by Chook’s approach, he had trust in me early in the process and I felt confident straight away’, Kade remembered. ‘It was a major contrast to the Belconnen process. I had 3 interviews with them, one with a panel of about 12 people asking many questions. I got the impression they didn’t trust me.’

The end result was a 21-year-old Kade was appointed senior coach of the Queanbeyan club which was playing in the NEAFL. This was a brave move by both parties but, in hindsight, it could probably be considered as a fairly astute one.

One of the first things Kade did was call his mate Josh to enquire whether he would be interested in a move to a new Tigerland. Kade, Chook and Adrian Pavese made the trip to Melbourne to outline their plan. By this time, Josh, who was still a country boy at heart, had grown weary of the big city hustle and bustle and was looking for ‘more of a traditional club atmosphere in somewhere smaller than Melbourne’. Josh also sought the opinion of his uncle, Max Bryce, who had played fullback with the Tigers in the 1980s. Max gave the Tigers a ‘highly recommended’ endorsement and so Josh was set to play with his mate again, with an additional assistant coaching role.

In the abridged account of the season, Kade and Josh assessed the senior squad as being good at winning the contested ball but could benefit from some enhanced kicking skills in delivering the ball to some talented key forwards. Some new training practices and patterns were implemented along with a simple game plan, which encouraged players to ‘focus on what they were good at’. Along with the new coaches, the input of a few recruits and the continued development of the younger players such as Kaine Stevens, Will Griggs, Alex Overs and Steve Jolliffe, the Tigers’ performance improved during the season - to the point that they won the minor premiership and played the Sydney Swans reserves in the second semi-final. The Swans won by 50 points that day. Despite that loss, the Tigers defeated Eastlake in the preliminary final to earn another crack at the Sydney team in the grand final.

As most readers would know, in perhaps the best game of football ever played by a Queanbeyan team, the underdog Tigers defeated the Swans reserves team, which was full of players with significant AFL experience. After the Swans led by 9 points at quarter time, the Tigers kicked five goals to one in the second quarter to take a 17-point lead at the main break, in a no-holds-barred contest. From that point, many in the crowd expected the Swans team of mostly full-time professional footballers, to overrun the Queanbeyan team, who all had to take time off work or study to meet the scheduling commitments during the season. But it never happened!

The Tigers not only matched the Swans for effort but displayed a high level of skill and teamwork to outscore the Sydney team in the second half to claim a heroic and historic victory they are unlikely to ever forget. A triumph largely orchestrated by 21-year-old head and assistant coaches, with the guiding hand of off-field assistant coaches, Adrian (Pav) Pavese and Paul James.

One decisive moment during the second quarter was the emphatic response by Will Griggs to the constant scragging and niggling of Swans on-baller Jed Lamb, in the form of a short, sharp blow to the midriff, which led to a bit of a ‘melee’. Another important element was the physical approach in the ruck taken by Neil Irwin. Neil apparently spent considerable time telling the Swans ruckmen, particularly Jesse White, that it was his last ever game of football, and he didn’t care how many times he got reported. (Neil may have been guilty of spreading fake news, as he subsequently played for many years.) Perhaps the Swans were caught by surprise at the intensity of their Queanbeyan opponents, or they were wary of risking a report because they were still a chance to play AFL finals the next week. Whatever the reason, as the Tigers continued the tough physical approach befitting a grand final, the Swans did not quite match the intensity. With the winning margin of 5 goals, the final siren was met with a mixture of joy and wonder by the Tigers’ fans.

Part of the subsequent premiership celebrations included a party at a private house which may or may not have been in Tharwa Road. This party may or may not have included letting off fireworks in the wee hours and may or may not have led to, not one, but two visits by the local constabulary. On the first visit, the officers of the law may have been kind enough to congratulate the team on the success and request that there be no more fireworks. However, someone had trouble understanding and complying with that request and may have resumed the early morning pyrotechnics display for the neighbours. Sensing the more serious nature of the second visit, the group may have quickly devised a cunning plan to convince the police there was ‘nothing to see here’. While most of the revellers tried to hide or tried to feign that they were asleep, Michael Kavanagh may have answered the door, dressed only in his socks and pretending he had been woken up by the knocking. The plan worked perfectly - except for the part where the officers didn’t buy it for a second, although they were still tolerant enough to give the lads a final warning.

From the heights of 2012, it would be easy for the young men to think that ‘this coaching caper is not so hard. What is all the fuss about?’. However, after starting the 2013 season on fire, the team was cruelled by injuries and, despite beating all the eventual finalists along the way, did not manage to win enough games to make the finals themselves.

At the end of the 2014 season, after the Tigers had withdrawn from the NEAFL competition, there was a major upheaval, where no less than 42 players left the club. Amongst this turmoil, Josh returned to his hometown of Jerilderie to have a season with his 5 cousins and childhood mates while Kade stayed on as coach with just two other senior players for the 2015 season. After promoting promising youngsters and coaxing a 40 years young Mark Armstrong out of retirement, Kade again took an underdog Tigers team into the grand final against an undefeated Belconnen outfit. In another memorable performance, with Paul Williams, Alex Page and Merv all kicking miracle goals, the team was again victorious.

With Josh back on board in 2016, they led the team to the runners up position. Kade was then enticed to coach the Canberra Demons, who were now the sole NEAFL team from the Canberra region. In that role, Kade continued to enhance his reputation as a captain/coach until the Covid epidemic put an end to the NEAFL (the season and then the competition) in 2020.

The two childhood friends have been reunited from a football perspective at the Tigers since then. Along with the inspiring and relentless Pav (and many others), they have continued to be instrumental in the development and success of the Tigers’ men’s teams, securing premierships in 2020 and 2022 (with the team also minor premiers in 2021 but, due to Covid, the finals were not played).

As well as the on-field achievements of the club, Josh and Kade have been significant contributors to the development of the culture of the club, which has a stronger than ever community focus. In a similar fashion to many others in the club, they have mentored and supported players, officials and volunteers and participated in a number of broader community activities.

It was such assistance that indirectly led to Kade’s mysterious cold shower. For about 6 months in 2012, Kade had shared a house with another Tigers recruit, Jarrod Atkinson, who he had met at Essendon in 2009. During that period, Jarrod worked out how to access the neighbours’ Wi-Fi to economically download content to his computer. Even after Jarrod had moved out, Kade occasionally found Jarrod sitting in his car outside of the house because he had run out of credit and needed to download something.

Sometime later, Kade had spent a weekend out of town and, on his return, discovered the hard way that the hot water system was not working. Upon investigation, Kade found that the hot water system had been unplugged and there were two garden chairs alongside, leaving Kade scratching his head. It wasn’t until he ran into Jarrod a little later that the mystery was solved. Jarrod apologised for the cold water but explained that he needed to both download using the neighbours Wi-Fi and also charge his computer at the same time. So, he had set himself up with the chairs at the outdoor power point and forgotten to plug the hot water system back in. Voila – mystery solved.

While they were initially lured to Queanbeyan by football, which remains a prominent part of their lives, the pair have now settled in the town and have broader roots and interests. Josh has established a landscaping business, Southside and Beyond Gardens and Maintenance, married Chelsea, a Queanbeyan local, and together they have started a family, with Darcy already sporting Tiger colours. He believes Queanbeyan ‘is a good place to raise children’ and would appear set to stay for at least a little while longer.

Kade has also settled in town with wife Rachel and two boys, Thomas and Levi. While he has worked to progress his playing and coaching career, he has also increased his role with the Divergent Church and is heavily involved and focussed on the Church’s work in the broader community. Kade refers to the Canberra region as ‘a big country city’. He says, ‘the community has invested in me, I want to invest in them’.

Both Kade and Josh take a similar approach to their involvement in the Queanbeyan football club. They still strongly enjoy ‘just being around football people’. They both reflect that ‘the Tigers club has been good to me, and I want to contribute back to the club.’ Any observer would undoubtedly agree that Kade Klemke and Josh Bryce have indeed made a great contribution to the club.

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