A pre-season of new beginnings

While a lot of the focus in the football world is focused on the conclusion to the pre-season at the elite level, the weekend warriors who strap on the boots for the love of the game are also close to finishing their preparations for the coming season. It seems rain, hail, humidity, sunshine and flooding cannot stop us, as April 14 continues to stand out like a beacon, for that date represents the opening encounter for the 2013 season in the Capricornia region.

There was much discussion over the off-season over draw and age group structures as there seems to be almost every year. Once again the push to have even age groups as opposed to odd age groups (i.e. Under 18/16/14 instead of 17/15/13) was defeated but it appears will be a formality for 2014. While the thought may have been to have our age groups be in line with the state development squad and country championship age groups, I suspect some think in error that the extra year spent in school means that the finishing age is 18 when in effect 5 year olds are in Prep in Queensland (it’s generally 6 year olds in Prep for Victoria). The proposal for the draw seemed to be flawed from the outset, with a thought to have a triple header of senior games at the one venue as an extra match, boosting the season from 15 to 18 games. Personally there are issues with ground availability (only 2 grounds have lights suitable for senior night football without having excessive spending for hiring suitable lighting, and starting at earlier times would be a massive issue for travelling teams), plus at least with a 15 round season we know that each team plays each other 3 times, which is as fair as it gets. The extra 3 games would create an uneven draw, disadvantaging weaker teams who may have to play 3 strong teams denying them a shot at the final 4.

That aside, there is a buzz at our local club (Brothers for the new readers) that hasn’t really been about for ages. Once again we have a new coach at the helm, a situation which is replicated at a couple of other clubs, but this time we have someone totally new to the club and region. Unlike the last coach we had in this situation (in 2007), he seems to have an idea over how the game of footy is to be played. There are new game plans which obviously will take time to adapt to, but the group are certainly buying into the idea of a structured game plan as opposed to disorganised improvisation which may have happened with past coaches.

The biggest challenge for us this year is the composition of our senior squad. It’s not the matter of getting all the new recruits to integrate themselves into our unit, to me this will happen very quickly. Our biggest issue is how our group is spread over 3 cities. The coaching staff in each of Rockhampton, Emerald and Blackwater do a superb job in the circumstances, trying to adapt the game plan and style with limited human resources. The issue will be trying to have a whole team session in the one place so that we don’t need to be spending much of the pre-match walking through something most of us already have trained for.

To that end we have had a pair of internal practice matches in the last month, one of which was played on a reduced field with lower numbers in Rockhampton and the other a couple of days ago in Emerald. You may ask if they have AFL facilities in Emerald, a town which doesn’t have a club and had not seen a 18 a side competition since the Sydney Olympics. This can be answered in the affirmative, even though the posts at the Emerald showgrounds may have seen better days and the players have had to change in the bar area. The surface itself is better than a few venues in the Capricornia region, although we had to play with the centre turf wicket area barricaded with the local cricket final to be played there next week. Maybe there will one day be regular matches played there, perhaps even a team representing the region within 10 years, judging by the player turnout at both the seniors practice match and the junior clinics held in the morning. A lot of those kids already showed immense kicking ability, maybe I needed to stand further back to mark their passes!

There is one more engagement before the season begins, with a small lightning carnival being held at Yeppoon in a couple of weeks time. On the last 2 occasions that the lightning carnival has been played in 2004 and 2005, we managed to win the whole event (not that this is always the priority…..I’m starting to sound like a coach now aren’t I?) famously playing and winning all of our matches in 2004 before having to wait for at least 2 hours to claim the title. Hopefully this will provide another chance to get as many of our players together from across the region to learn the new plans and style, any opportunity needs to be viewed in this way.

My role this season too has expanded off the ground. With the coaching staff anticipating enough players of senior standard to fill playing stocks, the coaching staff have entrusted me to take statistics for the season. This is NOT a role to measure individual possessions, that would probably mean having to find a couple of others who would rather improve our bar takings and support the team in that way. My role is to measure areas like clearance rates, tackles and inside 50’s amongst others. These have been identified as a key to success, so I guess I had better not stuff up or else!

 

P.S: Hey Mickey Arthur, does writing this get me into the team for the next test match?

About Mick Jeffrey

32 Year Old, Bulldogs Member and tragic. Reserve Grade coach after over 225 combined senior/reserves appearances for Brothers AFC in AFL Capricornia. 11 time Marathon finisher, one time Ultra Marathon finisher and Comrades Marathon competitor 2017.

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