Winds of change at Berwick

Stewart Kemperman with co-captains Bryce Rutherford and Madi Andrews just days ago. 185297 Picture: ROB CAREW

By Nick Creely

One of the key men in Berwick’s back-to-back premierships in the SEFNL, dual premiership coach Stewart Kemperman, has parted ways from the club after just two years in the job.

The former Noble Park champion signed on with the club in his first senior coaching role in 2017, and guided the Wickers to back-to-back flags for just the second time in the club’s illustrious history just 10 days ago at Edwin Flack Reserve against Narre Warren.

Club president Glenn Gambetta confirmed the massive news on Tuesday afternoon to the Gazette after a series of meetings, and said that they have parted ways amicably after discussions with Kemperman about the future direction of the club.

Gambetta also confirmed that Rhys Nisbet, the 2015 premiership coach, will coach the club from 2019 as they enter ‘AFL Outer East’, describing it as a “transition”.

“Obviously it’s a very difficult decision to end Stewart’s time at the club, but the original plan was to offer him a two-year contract with the option of a third year,” Gambetta said.

“The transition from Rhys to Stewart was a smooth one, but we were always aware that Rhys was keen to return to the fold after a two-or-three year hiatus.

“Rhys is now fully committed to returning to the fold, he’s a Berwick boy through and through, and we’re delighted to have him back on board.”

Gambetta said Kemperman wanted to coach a third year and understood the club’s stance, and swiftly denied that there were any issues with Kemperman and the playing group, reiterating that it’s all part of the transition back to Nisbet.

“We asked for the players’ input, and they were happy with whatever way we went – it wasn’t about them voting him in or out, so there was no issues at all,” he said.

Kemperman ends his time at Berwick with a magnificent 92-percent strike rate, having coached the club to 34 wins from 37 outings, including an unblemished record of five wins in finals.

He told the Gazette that it was a mutual parting of ways, and he understood that it was always going to be transition when he signed up for the role two years ago. But he said there was a sadness to be leaving behind a “wonderful playing group”.

“I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity I got at the club to start my coaching career and develop myself- I have enormous admiration for the players and how they’ve sustained a successful period for the club,” he said.

“I’m internally grateful for the committee to make this club better each year and create a culture and place that’s the envy of other clubs.

“I’m also grateful to the family to allow me to put the time in to coach.”

Kemperman also said he is exploring his options at local and elite level and that his two premierships has only fuelled him to continue working on his coaching.