“……GO TARRAWINGEE……….”

“Go Tarrawingee…….Tricolors we are the team”
“Tough… fast…courageous… in football we sure reign supreme……..”
“From back line to for’d line, we Dogs we never give in”
“We aim to be the premiers of the Ovens and King…………”

 

The strains of the Bulldogs’ theme song were still ringing in his ears when Trevor Edwards finally hit the sack around 4am last Sunday.

What a momentous day ! The best-laid plans of his brains-trust had worked to a tee, and his players had given of their best. They’d fought out a gruelling contest with Milawa, in windswept conditions, and with steely determination, to clinch Tarra’s eighth flag.IMG_3683

Then the celebrations began…….And the endless renditions of that song………..

“We had a good go again, out at the Clubrooms, when everybody re-surfaced on Sunday, then the boys at the ‘Plough’ put on a meal for us on Monday ,” said Trev. “It’s amazing how you can still find different parts of the game to dissect two days later………..”

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To put Tarrawingee’s third flag in eleven years into perspective, it’s worth tracking back more than two decades, to an era when they were fobbed off as one of the O & K’s ‘poor relations’.

After clinching an unlikely premiership in 1990, the next fourteen years were spectacularly unsuccessful. The Dogs floundered at – or near the bottom – of the ladder.  A meagre two victories between 1997 and ‘99 resulted in the ignominy of a hat-trick of wooden-spoons. Only once, in 1995, did they manage to reach the finals.

The Recreation Reserve was certainly not a ‘destination-spot’ for any player seeking to head out to the Ovens and King. The ‘Bullies’ were ‘on the nose’.

A comeback of sorts began in the early 2000’s, when improved on-field performances were matched by the diligence of an enthusiastic administration. Some building projects were undertaken, which lifted  Tarra’s  facilities to be almost without peer among minor-league clubs.

Under the coaching of Billy McMillan, they snuck into successive Elimination Finals. In Mick Wilson’s second year, the Dogs convincingly outpointed Bright to snatch the flag.

The revival was complete.

Tarra has now contested 14-straight finals series, and appear well-placed to continue their reign amongst the upper echelon. Their rise from the scrap-heap is an example to other clubs which find themselves mired in mediocrity………………..
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My original intention was to yarn with Trevor Edwards last week, as a lead-up to the Grand Final. He wasn’t too keen; opting to keep things low-key before the big game.

Even now, as we talk, he’s probably wondering why I’ve bothered to chase him up. He’s a humble bloke, quietly-spoken – hardly the type to peel the paint off clubroom walls with a vitriolic outburst, or, heaven forbid, draw undue attention towards himself.

“He’s highly-respected – the players think a lot of him,” noted one old Dog. Another said: “You rarely hear him raise his voice or do his block.”

Trev has loved his time at Tarra ; loved coaching. But he’s 37, and it’s time to hang up the boots, he says. “I’ve had a really good run with injury. Dislocated a knee once; had a couple of soft tissue injuries. I’d be tempting fate if I went on………..”

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The Trevor Edwards career began with a couple of seasons at King Valley Thirds. He was around 13, he thinks, when he first started. The next step was to Junior Magpies, where he came under the influence of the legendary Bob Murray.

“Jonny McCormick, Simon Gamze and Brian Tavare were three others who were playing. We had a fair side, and won the flag. That was the first of many to come, I thought. I soon came to realise how difficult they are to win.”IMG_3682

A pre-season with the Murray Bushrangers prepared him for his elevation to the Wang Thirds – then, in 1999, came his O & M debut with Wangaratta.

As a tall, lanky, teen-aged left-footer, he was pitchforked into key defence roles with the struggling Pies. They were in the midst of a horror-patch, where they were to collect seven wooden-spoons in a row. In his first four seasons they won just nine matches.

It was a rapid-learning experience, to say the least, and when Jon Henry took over as coach, the improvement amongst the younger players, in particular, was obvious.

Trev stands 6’4” ( 193cm) and has now thickened up a little from his earlier days, when he tipped the scales at just short of eighty kilos. Hardly the sort of proportions to be wrestling with the goal-kicking brutes of that era, you’d reckon.

“Jon ( Henry ) kept at me about hitting the weights, but I’ve never been a gym junkie,” he says.
“I just relied on my height and natural ability, I suppose.”IMG_3686

The Magpies’ gradual rise was emphasised when they played Lavington in the Elimination Final of 2004. That was the last of Trev’s 102 O & M senior games.

Yielding to a touch of wanderlust, he and Lauren decided to explore the West, where he spent a season in the W.A Amateur Football League, with the Whitford Warriors.

When they returned to Victoria, they settled in Geelong. He was quickly snapped up by Bellarine League team , Geelong Amateurs.

“They were a strong club and we had a fair bit of success in the seven years I was there. We won the flag in 2008, then finished runners-up for the next three seasons.”IMG_3685

The ‘Ammo’s’ used him on a wing, or across half forward. When they swept to their second BFL title – kicking 28.11 to Torquay’s 14.17, he starred in attack, and savours the memory of his first senior premiership, which had been brewing for ten years.

Trev had played 114 games with the ‘Ammo’s’ and was named in their ‘Team of the Decade’. But they felt the call of home,  and he and Lauren lobbed back in Wangaratta in 2013.

He was keenly-sought by a few clubs, but several old Magpies – such as Brendan Cairns, Trent Allen, Dan McCormick, Jordy Solimo and Daniel Barassi – had already gravitated to Tarra, and that made his decision to sign with the Tricolors a no-brainer.

The Dogs fell at the Prelim Final hurdle in his first couple of years, but there was no doubt that the big centre half back had earned his ranking as one of the League’s premier defenders.

There was more disappointment ahead, in 2015, when they bombed out in a demoralising Elimination Final performance against Bright. Edwards stood tall in defence, against the odds, as they were nailed by 69 points.

He shared the coaching duties with Kyle Raven that year, but stepped into the role in his own right in 2016.

It was a natural progression. Coaching was a good fit, he agrees. When I ask for the philosophy, that he preaches, it’s fairly basic: “Be a good team-mate…….Be prepared to do a job for the team……Gain the trust of your team-mates by your efforts on and off the field……..”

Tarra finished the home-and-away in third spot in 2016, then recorded impressive wins over King Valley and Milawa. “We were really enjoying our footy. We’d got on a roll,” Trev recalls.

“But at half-time of the Prelim, Bonnie Doon were pretty well on top, in sloppy conditions. We looked a bit flat. You asked before whether I’d ever lost my cool – well, I gave ‘em a burst that day.”

And it worked, the Dogs fought back to clinch a 3-point win. The following week, however, on the big stage, a rampant Glenrowan proved too strong.

Last season, after earning the double chance despite the loss of key players, they were bundled out in straight sets.

So the question mark remained over the Bulldogs. Could they produce when they were ‘under the pump’ in the finals ?

“We recruited well this year,” Trev says. “Obviously Daine Porter was a handy acquisition. I don’t think you’d find many better team players than Daine. He sets a great example.”

“But after Benalla knocked us off in Round 6, we had a close look at our set-up. Actually, Xav Norden texted me over that week-end and said :’ what do you think about us swapping over – you to centre half forward and me to CHB ?’ “

“We alternated for a few weeks, then thought it was working okay, so we kept it at that. Xav’s been terrific down back. The leader of a really strong, tight backline.”

“But, as we proved last week-end, we’ve had a good, even spread across the board. The style of footy we played in the two finals is just what was required. They’re a great lot of fellahs.”IMG_3684

“I’ve also had great support from Joel Fisher and Jai Canny, who’ve been my eyes and ears on the bench. They both know their footy back-to-front, and allowed me to focus on my game………..”

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So after 350 senior games, including being a ‘centurion’ at three different clubs ( 102 at Wangaratta, 114 at Geelong Amateurs and 119 at Tarrawingee ) the Trevor Edwards career has wound down.

He’s looking forward to just following Tarra from the other side of the fence, spending more time with the kids – 6 year-old Harry ( who loves his footy) and 2 year-old Isabelle – and watching Lauren play Netball.

One thing he won’t miss is having to go on the recruiting trail. He’ll leave that to his successor. When I mention that he’s now joined a hallowed group of premiership coaches – Kevin French, Ray Burns, John Welch, Bob Barrett and Mick Wilson – at Tarrawingee, he’s impressed.

“That sounds pretty good company,” says the unassuming gentle giant…………IMG_3667

THE COACHING CAPER……..

Our girls were excited last week. Word came through that we had a new footy coach in the family.

Their mother was a touch more matter-of-fact about the announcement : “Poor Donna ! ”

Moira speaks with the voice of experience on this subject, having spent the first two years of our married life as a coach’s wife.

She got an inkling of what she was in for, she tells the kids , when she discovered two books in our honeymoon luggage – ‘Fingleton on Cricket’ and ‘The Australian National Football League Coaching Manual’.

Moi was amused at first, but soon became accustomed, to my Saturday morning ritual – steak and eggs for ‘brunch’, then a lengthy sit on the ‘throne’ whilst rehearsing the pre-game speech and ‘visualising’ the day ahead.

It must have been uncomfortable for her, being five months pregnant, to have to perch on the console of the red Monaro, so that we could accomodate the car-load of footballers we were transporting to each match. There was no doubt that she was prepared to make sacrifices for the cause.

Just as she did on those freezing mid-winter nights as she waited in the car, outside the Moyhu pub. I’d be inside licking my wounds and consoling the players after yet another loss. The fact that Moi now had the company of our first-born, Simone, only accentuated the inconvenience.

She endured late-night interruptions, like the Friday night ‘phone call from the dad of one of our few star players. The young bloke had ‘pranged’ his  car, been locked up and was a scratching from tomorrow’s game.

And the call she took from an irate wife, who gave her a severe dressing-down. Her husband had just arrived home from the trip-away in less than pristine condition and she laid the blame squarely at the feet of the coach ( who was by now dead-asleep)…………..

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Coaching has become deeply analytical in the 40 or so years since those ‘halcyon’ days.

Now it’s about structure, tempo, the press, inside-50’s, mids, talls, stoppages, the spread, squeeze, the corridor, man-on-man and shut-down players………

But is there still room for the Hot Gospeller – the fellow who jumps onto a bench and, with his team staring defeat in the face, launches into a tirade of vitriol, so intense that it could peel paint off the walls ?

Sometimes it works; often the blunt, honest message, delivered in plain-speak, is more effective.

I saw it on Saturday, as the Tarrawingee players trudged into the rooms at half-time, after being out-muscled by Bonnie Doon. They were obviously wondering how the hell they could get back into the contest.

They had no sooner sat down and grabbed a drink when their coach, Trevor Edwards got to work, letting them know that they’d played over-cautiously and were probably worrying too much about their own game.

“Take a risk or two; don’t just bang the ball onto your boot; work hard for your team-mate.”trev

Simple words…..but the match changed. They did start to look out for each other, regained control and went on to win a thriller. It helped, of course, that the coach, who had been sterling in defence, found himself deep enough in attack a couple of times, to kick two of their six goals.

At Corowa on Sunday, Yarrawonga had dominated a dour battle for three quarters. Wodonga Raiders coach Darryn Cresswell pulled his group in tightly at lemon-time and implored them to attack.

He isolated his ‘gun’ forward Jydon Neagle close to goal – and the game came to life. The highly-talented Neagle, who had been well-restrained, booted two quick goals and looked ever-alert.

They had a chance to draw level in the dying seconds, when a flying Neagle shot was touched on the line. Alas, they fell 5 points short, but the coach had certainly pulled the right rein…………..

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Despite my spectacular failure, I’ve long been entranced by the magic of the coach’s message. It goes as far back as 1956, when I squeezed into the dressing-rooms under the old Grandstand at Benalla, to hear Bobby Rose’s first pre-match address.

There was a huge buzz in the Rovers camp and the antiquated rooms were chock-a-bloc. As Mr.Football began to speak, you could detect the look of wonderment on the faces of the players. The mere presence of possibly the biggest name in the game, revving up the previously downtrodden Hawks,  was enough to raise the excitement to high-octane levels.

The eloquence of his speech was, in most supporters’ minds, worth the cost of the admittance money. Unfortunately, he was out injured that day, but made his much-awaited debut in Brown and Gold at the Cricket Ground the following week.

laurieAnother persuasive Rovers coach, Laurie Burt, was never quite sure whether a few of his stars, like Robbie Hickmott, Neale McMonigle and Jason Gorman, were tuned in to his pre-match, or were contemplating the chances of the favourite in the third at Rosehill.

But ‘Gormo’ does remember him instructing them one day to close their eyes and dream……..”I want you to imagine you’re climbing an apple tree….and when you’ve clambered your way to the top, the prize is within reach…..and you pluck the cherry off the top….”

Inspirational oration was not the forte’ of Ron ‘Modest’ Murray when he coached at Moyhu and Tarrawingee.

‘Modest’ was more a man of on-field action, but he became notorious for the almost-weekly exhortation to his defenders: “…I want youse to stick like shit to a blanket, and if youse have seen shit stick to a blanket, that’s how I want youse to stick……”

Kevin ‘Grumpy’ Kenna was a legendary name in Goulburn Valley football circles and became famous for his motivational speeches. He had been a front-gunner on a fighter bomber during the Second World War and told chilling tales of firing at hordes of Japanese infantry.

“When we ran out of ammunition, I fed my rosary beads through the magazine”, he once said.

‘Grumpy’ coached Shepparton United to a string of premierships in the fifties. The story is told of the United runner coming to the bench during one game and giving him an update on his star rover, who had copped a heavy knock.

“He doesn’t know who he is or where he is.”

“Well, go back and tell him he’s Bobby Skilton and he’s starring on the Lakeside Oval,” was ‘Grumpy’s reply.

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One of my favourite footy yarns was recounted by former Fitzroy and Adelaide coach Robert Shaw, of his days as a youngster in Hobart. It goes like this:

“With South Australia leading Victoria at half-time in a Carnival game, I made my way to the sheds under the grandstand of North Hobart Oval.

There were only two windows, both glazed, to eliminate prying eyes. I lifted myself up and, through a slit, could see into the rooms.

The room was filled with big, strong Victorians….legends in big V jumpers. The powerful smell of raw liniment filled the air……the greatest smell in the world.

And there stood Alan Killigrew, a short man by stature, a huge man by presence and voice. I pressed my face against the slit in the window.

‘Killa’ was on one of the old rub-down tables, his navy blukillae tie loosened and hanging halfway down his white shirt.

He pointed to the V on his blazer and demanded: ‘You have to play for the jumper’.

A pivotal moment in my coaching career then took place. Here was my chance. I took a deep breath and called out through the misted louvres of North Hobart.

“YOU HAVE TO GO  IN HARDER “……… They all looked up in the direction of the window.

Killigrew didn’t miss a beat.

“See,” he said. “A young  kid tells you exactly what you have to do. Now go out and DO IT.”

I had delivered my first coaching address. The Vics got up for a win. All that practice in the backyard had borne fruit.”

That’s the magic of coaching…………..

 

 

rosey