by Julia Baker
MARK Lingard is well and truly outnumbered; with a wife and three girls at home, chances are none of his children will ever don the green and white jersey and play for the Chinchilla Bulldogs, but often you can find them on the sidelines cheering on their dad's beloved team.
Lingard, who works full time as a branch manager for Coates Hire, took over as A-Grade coach of the Bulldogs in 2016, after a long stint coaching the under 18s and a shorter time as Club Coach.
He said while his new post is a big commitment, which often takes him away from his first loves - wife Kimberley and daughters Ally, Gracie and Ella - on weeknights and weekends, coaching is a way for him to stay connected to his other love - rugby league.
"I love the game, I love talking tactics and coming up with games plans and being around the boys - it's kind of what I get a kick out of,” he said.
"Ever since I was a kid, I played for years and years and I just loved it and when I couldn't play any more, when the body wouldn't let me, coaching just seemed like a good thing to do.
"Every Tuesday and Thursday night for a couple of hours I'm away from my family, and then Saturday and Sunday depending on the day, unless they come with me of course.
"It can get a little bit hard, especially for (wife) Kimmo, if I am away for a whole day or weekend it is a big commitment on her part as well, but I think she secretly loves it just as much as I do, coming out here on the weekend and watching, and the girls love it - this is kind of their second home through winter.”
Lingard, who used to play for the Bulldogs, modestly admits that becoming A-Grade coach was never a part of his plan and that it took him a while to find his feet in the role.
"Coaching was definitely not natural to me and I didn't ever have any ambition to coach I don't think, I kind of did it as a way to stay connected to the game. I've loved it ever since I was a kid,” he said.
"I played for the Bulldogs when I was a young fella and all the mates I have now are footy-related so footy was always pretty strong for me and coaching was a way for me to stay involved. I still don't think I am natural at it though.
"This year I think I have a bit of a foothold on what I want to do and the players know me a bit better so I am a bit more comfortable now than I was last year.”
What does come naturally to Lingard, however, is dedication, a passion for rugby league and advocating for country football, and for what the game means to its players and club members; to regional communities.
"There is no glamour in it that's for sure. Being a country footballer and a coach is one of the hardest sporting jobs in the world,” he said.
"The boys come out here in freezing cold temperatures every week, they come and play on a Sunday and they get up on a Monday and they can't move and they can't walk but they go to work and then there is no-one giving them a pat on the back.”
"All the coaching courses I've been to and all the coaches I've interacted with they come from clubs that have money - the coaches they get paid and some of the players get paid, there facilities are good, everything is good whereas out here it takes a lot of hard work.
"There's no money to splash around; it's all swings and roundabouts.”