‘THE INTRICACIES OF COACHING……’

I’m a sucker for a good old  footy  coaching story……..

……..Like that of the rough and tumble back pocket player, born and bred in Richmond. He joins the Tigers, but over a period of six years never really establishes himself as a regular senior player.

Frustrated and unfulfilled , he spends a season with Richmond Amateurs, then decides to head to the bush, accepting a coaching position with Shepparton. His tenacious attitude and devotion to fitness turns the club into a winner. They narrowly lose the Grand Final in his first year, but snare three flags in a row.

The Mighty Tigers, looking for a replacement coach, cast the net and eventually turn to the formerly unfashionable defender. Relishing the opportunity, he gains the confidence of players, raises their fitness levels to new heights, and preaches his philosophy- ‘Kick the Ball Long…..’

Richmond win four flags under Tommy Hafey, and he is voted their Coach of the Century. He later leads Collingwood, Sydney and Geelong, in a fabulous 522-game coaching career…….

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A diminutive 5’4” rover moves from Murtoa to pursue what seems his impossible dream of playing League football with St.Kilda. He appears in 87 matches on either side of World War II before being struck down with tuberculosis of the spine.

For months he is in a coma and near death. When he recovers he is left hunchbacked. But his love of football and desire to coach St.Kilda inspires him to walk again. He is a big little man of courage and conviction, who openly loves his players, and his speeches become a precious part of the folk-lore of the game.IMG_3726

Overcoated and with tie askew, he patrols the boundary on match day, urging on his players and brandishing a towel to inflame the emotions of his club’s rabid fans.

Alan Killigrew’s coaching route takes him via East Ballarat and Golden Point, to St.Kilda, Norwood, North Melbourne and Subiaco. It ends with a premiership at QAFL Club Wilston-Grange. He says of his wanderings: “Wherever I go I’ll love my football. But I can only love one club – St.Kilda. It’s like a marriage – I’m married to one club …………

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A handy half-forward from Finley is promised six games with St.Kilda. He’s perceptive enough to realise that, at the expiration of those match permits, he’ll probably end up back in the Murray League.

He surprises himself and becomes a Saint regular until a rib injury forces him into early retirement. Two years later, aged just 27, he is thrust into the St.Kilda coaching job, after impressing as a fill-in with the Reserves.

The side clicks. In his first season in charge they sneak into the four – the Saints’ first finals appearance since 1939.

In 1965 they reach the Grand Final, but this is only the prelude to one of the most historic of all football moments, when a rushed snap for goal from Barry Breen hands them a one-point victory – and the 1966 premiership.IMG_3732

He has the reins at St.Kilda for sixteen years, basing his coaching philosophy on fierce discipline and the basic tenet that ‘either we have the ball, the opposition has it, or it is in dispute’.

Alan Jeans’ later appointment as coach at Hawthorn raises eyebrows , but he becomes a much-loved father-figure at Glenferrie, guiding the Hawks for a further nine seasons, during which they land three flags…………..

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A shy 16 year-old from Nyah West is first lured to Melbourne to fight a three-rounder at West Melbourne Stadium. He impresses, and over the next couple of years disposes of a variety of opponents.

On one of those visits to the city, he is invited to train with Collingwood. Years later he admits his clearest memory was of the green grass underfoot ; such a stark contrast to the drought-affected clay surfaces that he was used to in the Mallee.

He debuts with the Magpies in 1946 and becomes a instant hit. Modest to the extreme, he takes the game by storm, winning four B & F’s with the Pies and starring in their 1953 premiership.

The Brownlow Medal that most people feel is his due, never comes. He finishes runner-up in 1953, but is handed the pseudonym of ‘Mr.Football’, and acknowledged as one of the greatest players of all-time.

The football world reels in late-1955 when he announces that he is turning his back on a 152-game VFL career at age 27, in favour of a coaching job at Wangaratta Rovers.

He turns around the fortunes of a struggling club, capturing the imagination of the locals in the process, particularly the large contingent of Italian fans, who dub him ‘Bobby Rossa’.IMG_0549

He guides the Hawks to flags in 1958 and 1960 and wins the Morris Medal in both years. His 126 games in Brown and Gold are of rare quality, but equally acknowledged is his understanding of the game and the esteem in which he’s held.

Bob Rose, football legend,  heads back to Collingwood and takes over the coaching job in 1964. He proves to be a wonderful coach, but luck eludes him in his 10 years in charge, with three heart-breaking Grand Final losses. He also leads Footscray for four seasons…….

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The Rovers embark on a search for Rose’s replacement ; a Herculean task in itself.

Their enquires lead them to South Melbourne’s Lake Oval, where they have arranged to interview a 23 year-old, bony, confident, rapid-talking ruckman.IMG_1493

He’s become a ‘human-headline’ during his brief, controversial VFL career, principally because of his knack of getting into trouble on the field.

After all, he’s been rubbed out for a total of 30 games and has played just 60, many of which have contributed to his reputation as the ‘Wild-Man’ of football.

Several weeks earlier, he had copped a 12-week suspension for ‘snotting’ John Nicholls in a fiery Carlton- South Melbourne game. This followed on from the six weeks he’d been given for smacking ‘Big Nick’ and John Heathcote in the prior Carlton clash that season.

But still, informed sources had led the coaching sub-committee to believe that this fellah was a quality person and would be well worth the punt. He was, they said, ideal coaching material.

He tells them that he’d received 40-odd offers from around the nation, but sounds interested in what the Hawks have to say. Twenty minutes into their conversation, they’re certain that they’ve got the right man for the job.

Within 18 months Ken Boyd has become renowned as a popular, charismatic leader – loved by the Rovers; hated by opposition fans. He coaches for four years, wins two flags, and his capacity to create headlines remains undiminished………

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It’s early-October 2018…….. The Wangaratta Rovers have come off the worst season in their 68-year O & M history.

Winless and firmly entrenched on the bottom of the ladder, they are searching for a formula to return this famous club to its former glory.

And, not for the first time, they’re realising how difficult it is to entice recruits and potential leaders when things are seemingly ‘on the nose’

Already Hawk recruiting manager Barry Sullivan has sounded out Gold Coast on-baller Michael Barlow,  Nigel Lappin and Jarred Waite, among others. His list of names ‘as long as your arm’ is thinning rapidly.

He knows how hard it has been, over the last decade or so, to entice outsiders. Apart from the bold seven-game experiment with Barry Hall in 2012, several other players with sizeable reputations – including Lindsay Gilbee, Josh Fraser, ex-Demon Paul Wheatley and Patrick Rose, have eventually rejected the Rovers’ approaches.

In time, the trail leads to a retired 244-game Sydney Swan, who, during his career, was known as ‘smart, strong and unflinchingly brave’…..A Tasmanian and Sydney Swans Team of the Century Member, who had coached extensively since hanging up the boots – most recently at Wodonga Raiders………..IMG_3724IMG_3725

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“ ‘Carps’ (Sam Carpenter) suggested getting in touch with ‘Crezza’.” said ‘Sully’. “And ‘Rosco’ ( Hill, his co-coach of the past two seasons) fully supported the idea. They have had a good relationship with him and reckoned it’d be worth a try.”IMG_3734

“So I sent a text and arranged a convenient time to talk. He was in London when I caught up with him, but it sounded promising. He said he’d originally been planning to take a year off, but was excited by the challenge of taking over a young list and building the club up.”

“He’s 24/7 when he commits, and he’s big on player development, so he’ll be ideal for our group. But he’s also got a wide recruiting network and will look to see where we can fill a few holes.”

“He asked if he could have a few days to have a yarn to his wife, and have a think about it. When I contacted him again, he was rearing to go.”

“I think it’ll be fantastic for the club. The reaction has already been so positive and I know the players are excited by the prospect of being coached by Daryn Cresswell…………

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So the bombshell news that was dropped last week-end, is still being digested by stunned O & M fans. For the first time in 51 years the  Hawks have a coach from outside the club’s ranks….……Only history will decree whether it’s another of those good footy coaching stories…………IMG_3733

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