‘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

THE GENTLEMAN FAST BOWLER…………

It’s stretching a long bow to suggest that one of cricket’s legendary opening batsmen, Desmond Haynes, was troubled by the pace and venom of Gary Lidgerwood………….

“Hardly,” ‘George’ says, with a grin. “The first time I played against the West Indies at Benalla, he miscued a pull shot and hit it straight up in the air. He was out for a ‘duck’. Then when we met them at the Showgrounds the next year, he tried to belt me over the fence and was bowled – for 1.”

Still, as the years roll on, sporting stories have a knack of ‘growing legs’ and, over a few beers his mates sometimes refer to ‘Dessie’ Haynes as ‘Lidgerwood’s bunny.’
‘George’ laments the absence of those Country XI matches, which used to be an eagerly-anticipated part of International touring teams’ fixtures.

“You grasped the opportunity to rub shoulders with some of the greats of the game. Good crowds turned up and there was a buzz around town for weeks beforehand.”
“Unfortunately, there’s not enough room in the schedule these days.”…………

Gary’s regarded as an icon of North-East cricket. A fast bowler who could produce a bit extra on the big occasions – and a personable type who was a fine leader and ideal team-man.

He thrived on competitiveness and camaraderie and – in something that sat well with selectors – made himself available for any representative match that was on the horizon……..
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The tiny hamlet of St.James, perched almost equidistant from Wangaratta, Yarrawonga and Benalla, was the launching-pad for the storied sporting career of Gary Lidgerwood.

When barely a teen-ager, this slightly-built kid, who hailed from a nearby farm, laboured enthusiastically on the  hard wicket and dry terrain of the St.James oval. Gnarled veterans of the Lake Rowan competition nodded sagely, as he made them hurry their shots and withdraw from rearing deliveries.

In winter he lined up on a wing for neighboring Tungamah, and did enough to prompt an approach from O & M club Benalla.

It was 1974; he was travelling in to attend Benalla Tech and saddling up with the Demons’ senior side. A stooped, persuasive old recruiter called Alan Killigrew – one of the most recognisable faces in football – pulled him aside one day and suggested he might consider having a run with North Melbourne Thirds.

That suited. He was heading down to attend Swinburne Tech the next year, so he came under the influence of Raymond Clarence ‘Slug’ Jordan, a coach with a reputation for colourful language and a confrontational approach.

What an experience ! In the time he spent under the brutal ‘Slug’, who, it was claimed, had a tongue like a Chainsaw, he learnt plenty about the rigours of sporting life. But it was a pleasure to be around Arden Street at that time. Barassi’s Northerners were en-route to their first-ever flag.

And, as a lowly Thirds player he was also along for the ride……. At the end of the day, however, Gary deduced that he had a limited future in League footy.

He had, though, considered accepting one of the several approaches he’d received about playing District cricket. Instead, he decided to travel back to play in Benalla each week-end.

He joined Goorambat – perennial BDCA finalists and home club of the Cleary and Trewin clans – sharing the new ‘cherry’ with experienced campaigners John Cleary and Johnny Ashton.

And he became a valuable component of a Benalla football line-up which had been barking at the heels of the flag contenders for a few seasons.

They had been building up to something – and in 1978 it all came together. Under the coaching of local boy Billy Sammon, they chalked up 16 wins on the trot, to secure a Grand Final berth.

The Demons went in as ‘red-hot’ favourites, but were blown away by a Rovers side which dictated terms, almost from the first bounce, to win by 54 points………….
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Gary had played 110 senior games with Benalla -and was a vital member of their rep cricket sides – when he accepted a shift to Wangaratta in 1981, as Manager of Paterson’s Furniture Store.

He threw in his footy lot with Wangaratta, and linked up with City Colts, a club which was making steady progress after years in the WDCA wilderness.

Colts hadn’t played in a finals series in their first 20 years of existence. With Lidgerwood in their ranks they appeared in nine of the next ten.

Younger players grew taller alongside the inspiring fast bowler. In his first season there was immediate success. Colts were defending 116 in the semi-final against powerhouse, United.

Lidgerwood and his bowling partner Bruce Hookey smashed through the United line-up to have them 9/30 at one stage, before finally dismissing them for 76.

Unfortunately, it was Colts’ turn to be humbled in the Grand Final, when they could only muster 52 against Whorouly.

Four years later, they finally broke through for their first – and only – WDCA senior flag. Sneaking into the finals by just 1.1% they squared off against Corowa in the big one.

It was a decisive victory, as Colts responded to a score of 141 with a mammoth 414.

‘George’s’ remarkable consistency in club cricket saw him finish in the top three of the Association’s bowling averages in eight of his first nine seasons. He won the ‘double’, the Chronicle Trophy and Cricketer of the Year Award in 1982/83, with 49 wickets and 381 runs.

His batting style in amassing those 381 runs could simply be described as unorthodox.

Coming in down the list, he would back his eye and tee off with a shot that sent the ball over the field, anywhere from backward point to deep mid-wicket.

Defensive prods were negligible and bowlers who felt they had broken the back of the Colts batting would be frustrated by a flurry of late-order runs.

His second Cricketer of the Year gong came in 1985/86. On the eve of that season, he had played in his only football flag, as a member of Wangaratta’s ‘85 Reserves team.

He’s pretty handy at socialising, is ‘George’. Two years ago he and his old Magpie team-mates gathered together and made a great fist of celebrating the 30-year Anniversary of that Premiership. The flag was all the more memorable because it was the last game of footy he played.

He was just 29 when he hung up the boots, but he reckons it helped to elongate his cricket career.

Back then, in his halcyon days, he had a long, rhythmic run-up. Straight, black hair would flop in the breeze, as a slightly round-arm action propelled the bright red ‘Kookaburra’ at a decidedly slippery and uncomfortable speed.

The ability to bowl a decent out-swinger and a dose of old-fashioned cricket nous made him a formidable opponent.

There was occasional criticism that he needed a touch more mongrel, but ‘George’ replied that he’d rather attack the stumps than than the body. “I preferred not to go head-hunting,” he says.

As his pace began to wane in latter years, he became a dependable ‘stock bowler’, tying up an end with accuracy and subtle variation of pace.

He opened the bowling for Victorian Country in the first-ever National Country titles in Brisbane.

Appearances against New Zealand Under 21’s, the ACT, and those two West Indies sides were part of a bulging CV.

He took 4/50 in the Showgrounds match against the Windies, but hastens to point out that, after he had claimed his fourth victim, opposition captain Richie Richardson proceeded to take 22 runs off his next over.

“He told me I’d bowled one over too many.”

‘George’ played 250 games for City Colts, and took 600 wickets. He was a key player in 14 Melbourne Country Week trips as a player, and was captain in eight of these.

He also figured in eight North-East Cup victories.

When he finally left the playing-field he Managed the Country Week side for several years, then had a five-year stint as President of the WDCA.

It was the least he could do, he said, to repay the debt he owed to cricket…………………

HARD WORK TAKES MOYHU BOY TO THE TOP

Alan Jarrott moved on from the Moyhu Football Club at the end of 1974.

Thank heavens for that, I suggest to him.

Had he hung around for another season he would have had to cope with my coaching – and that may have jeopardised the bright future that the good judges were predicting for him.

In time, he carved out a fine VFL career ; became renowned as one of the most lethal exponent of handball in his era and was acknowledged for his astute football brain.

Not a bad effort for a kid who honed his skills in the paddocks  surrounding  the family farm at Thistlebrook, a tiny speck on the map, about four miles out of Moyhu.

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Alan’s the first to admit that he didn’t establish a close rapport with the dairy cows, which were the staple of the family’s income, and to which his brothers Gordon and Neil were assigned the task of milking twice daily.

Eventually, Gordon suggested that Alan curtail his random visits to the dairy, as there was a theory that cows gave less milk when they were in the presence of strangers !

Anyway, there was no time to spare. He and his mate from the adjoining farm, John McVean, devoted most of their idle moments to playing sport.

Both were outstanding tennis players and Alan was a more than handy cricketer ( he once represented the North-East Schoolboys).

Their nightly footy sessions, on the paddock behind the McVean residence, were fair dinkum affairs. Not just a leisurely kick-to-kick, but plenty of tackling and competitive stuff, which inevitably produced a bruise or three.

Rovers President, Jack Maroney, a regular visitor to the Jarrott farm in his guise as a livestock agent, did his best to entice  young Alan to  the Hawks. But the distance from Wangaratta made it too inconvenient.

Instead, he rocked up to Moyhu’s training and impressed enough to be plonked at centre half forward in the senior side. He was just 16 and was assured by a couple of the team’s elders, John Michelini and Paul Scanlan, that they would shelter him from the rough stuff.

Not that he needed any mollycoddling . Within twelve months he had been selected to represent the O & K against the Upper Murray League at Beechworth.

“I remember that we got a hiding. And the bloke I played on was given the award for Best-afield”, Alan recalls.

Feeling a bit downhearted at the after-match, he was introduced to former North Melbourne coach, Alan Killigrew, The O & K was part of the Kangaroos’ recruiting zone and ‘Killa’s’ role was to be their ‘P.R’ man in the area.

“He spoke to me for about 10 minutes……. didn’t draw breath. When he finally stopped talking, he said: ‘I like you, son…..you listen’ .”

Alan finished High School and chose to undertake a Phys.Ed course at the Footscray R.M.I.T. Whilst playing in the Victorian/Australian Tennis Open early in 1975, he was tracked down by a bloke who was to have an enormous influence on his life – Raymond Clarence ‘Slug’ Jordan.

” ‘Slug’ was coaching North’s Thirds and Reserves and invited me to have a run . He sort of took me under his wing, and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have played a game of League footy, but for him”.

” He was also North’s full-time Development Officer. My hours at Uni were pretty flexible, so I helped him out at school clinics. I absorbed everything that he taught the kids and then put it into practice.”

“He reckoned I kicked the footy like a bag of spuds, and needed to sharpen up my handball. I was determined to improve. For instance, I’d always avoided using my left foot. In the end, after heaps of work, that became my preferred kicking option”.

On the trips to and from clinics, ‘Slug’ spelt out his philosophies on football. And, with typical, brutal honesty, would analyse Alan’s match-day performances. He became, so to speak, his personal ‘tutor’.

After a lengthy apprenticeship, he broke into North’s senior side late in 1977, and was given a decent initiation – the task of keeping an eye on Richmond champion Kevin Bartlett. The elusive, cunning, wispy-haired ‘K.B’ proved a handful for the youngster, who nevertheless, acquitted himself well.

It was his introduction to the art of ‘tagging’, a form of the game at which Alan was to become adept. He confronted, at close quarters, many of the stars of the game, like Leigh Matthews, Tim Watson,Gary Wilson, Michael Tuck, and Gerard Healy, whom it was his task to negate.

So it was as a tagger and occasional ruck-rover and half back flanker that he made his mark. His ability to concentrate deeply, position his body, defend grimly,  and shoot out a bullet-like handball from a scrimmage made him a valuable cog in the North side.

His coach Ron Barassi had a great appreciation of the no-frills Jarrott and once offered this assessment of one of his favourite players: ” He turned out better than I thought, mainly through really applying himself to skill acquisition. He started off as an ordinary kick and ball-handler. If he had been a bit speedier he might have been one of the greats…..”

It was little wonder, when Alan was delisted by North at the end of 1981, that Barassi and Jordan, who were now at Melbourne, were keen to lure him over.

“When the Krakouer brothers arrived at Arden Street, I got the flick. I’d played 79 senior games, and was happy with that. I was considering some offers from interstate and the VFA, then ‘Barass’ made contact. It was great to get another opportunity”, he says.

He played more as a back flanker and in the back pocket in 91 games over five years with the Demons and provided valuable service during a struggling era for the club.

“Early in the 1987 season, I broke a bone in my hand and that really hastened my decision to retire. I told the CEO I was pulling the pin and he suggested: ‘would you be interested in coaching the Thirds, we’ve just sacked the coach.’ ”

“So I retired on the Tuesday and was coaching on Thursday night,” Alan recalls.

He stayed in that role for the next year and a half, but declined to apply when it was broadened into a full-time position.

He’s had a few other flirtations with football over the last 27 years. A foray into journalism saw him covering League games for the Sunday Age ; he coached University Blues for a season ; and took an assistant-coaching position with ‘Slug’ Jordan, at the Prahran Dragons.

When Jordan suffered a stroke whilst recruiting for Collingwood, Alan offered to help out his old mate, and concentrated on scouting the interstate teams for some time.

He’s now back at North, and has been Vice-President of the Roos’ Past Players for the past three years.

Post-footy, Alan sampled an array of jobs, but for the last 15 years has been an Insurance specialist. Three years ago he launched his own Insurance brokerage.

These days his competitive juices are discharged by playing A-Grade tennis, alongside an ex-Wangaratta boy Ross Spriggs.

From Moyhu to the wide expanses of the MCG, and beyond, Alan Jarrott’s 170 VFL games stand as a tribute to one of football’s hardest workers…………..