Almanac Local Footy – AFL Capricornia: I love this coaching caper!

For those of you who have known me across the years as a player with Brothers AFC in the AFL Capricornia competition, you’d be surprised to know that I have also taken the coaching reigns for the reserve grade team for this season. Now that we have played once against every team, or at least have been scheduled to meet at least once, this is the most appropriate time to go through some random thoughts about each game so far this season.

ROUND 1, @ BITS Saints, FORFEIT LOSS

Not exactly a good start to the season, but when there are only 28 registered players for the first game of the season, one of whom is over 50 and another two happen to be the senior and reserves coach, it’s a case of well what did you expect! Still managed to get a workout in with a small sided 12-a-side kick around (14 is the minimum required, 16-a-side is what is being played at this grade this season), but there wasn’t a lot to take out of this game except a determination to rally the troops for a home game the next weekend. Not holding out hope for that given I’ve messaged at least a dozen potential players with either a negative or a non existent response.

ROUND 2, Home v Gladstone, LOST 3.6-17.11

At least we scrounged together a team this week, thanks to about five players playing a second game; much like their side and the appearance of three players from the Brothers Rugby Union team. One of those (Andrew Pearce, brother of cult hero Anthony, think a cross between Max Gawn, Wayne Weideman and Adam Cooney) had no experience so I decided to put him in the ruck. Loved his attitude of taking everything head on, even if he forgot about the handballing or kicking bits. We gave away a number of free kicks for high tackles, but as I kept mentioning in the huddles at the quarter breaks I’d much rather have us as a side give away frees for being overly aggressive than giving away free kicks for things like entering the centre square too early. At least there was a sense of physicality in the play which was something hopefully to work with. We looked pretty good with ball in hand, but once we turned it over we battled to repel their mids feeding the A-Grade full forward to the tune of 9 goals. The silver lining? We managed to tire their players who had to double up enough to win the senior game.

ROUND 3, @ Yeppoon, LOST 3.1-28.12

Personally turned this trip into a bus ride, probably could have been excused for missing it. I was hoping not to have to play until after May ended with running events on my agenda, but again due to the lack of numbers I was forced into plonking myself into the middle. For the second time in as many weeks I had a novice in ruck, but at least he had played one game of footy…..in A Grade! The message to him was to simply provide a contest and for the most part we did. Unfortunately we had a number of half-fit players wobbling around against a fresh team, many of whom would have walked into our senior team (we had 12 players play two senior games, plus another two kids playing Under 17s and either reserves or seniors). My personal contribution was a half hearted attempt at motivation (when you’re down on the board by this many with what you had what could you say?), a handful of touches around the stoppages and a sledge to one of their players who was yapping a little too much comparing his looks to Ed Sheeran. Sadly he couldn’t live up to my request for a few bars of whatever he sings. The other positive from a selfish team perspective, we scored two more goals and conceded 14 less majors than the seniors.

ROUND 4, @ Panthers, LOST 7.10-19.8

Long before I had even considered any plans for Yeppoon, I had identified this game as a possible chance of a win. It was the most thorough that I had planned for a match since taking on the position, even getting out of work early enough to get to the team selection meeting. I was thrilled to discover that the seniors had 24 players for 22 spots, and that as at Thursday Night I had enough players to ensure that I didn’t have to trudge through a gluepot (it rained basically all day Wednesday and Thursday, more your keep the cricketers off the field rain than anything substantial that was forecast but enough to turn the cricket ground’s centre wicket into a pile of mud). I even purchased a couple of white boards from K-Mart to illustrate coaching points and filled one on Saturday with notes and the other with diagrams.

It was too good to be true. Players were either too lazy to register or not bother contacting me with their unavailability meaning that the strapping had to be applied once again to the ankles and into the centre I went. Then came an issue that in 18 years I’ve probably not had to deal with, the lack of jumpers for the players. Naturally with players doubling up jumpers that belonged in the reserves bag ended up with the seniors bag which didn’t arrive at the ground until after the toss of the coin (there are different sponsors for each grade), not a good look considering the league’s appointed head honcho was present.

As for the game, we were in the contest at half time, and I tried to make some adjustments in the middle. Sadly for us how we reacted to a 50/50 call basically ended our hopes. Our dynamic midfielder Peter Slee (roving to yet another novice ruckman) was deemed to be holding the ball due to a suspect tackle (looked high). A couple of players reacted and gave away back to back 50s, the heads dropped and that was that. I know I asked the umpire if he thought Pete had ducked his head which would have at least left me satisfied in my mind that it was a fair decision, he claimed he couldn’t see which was understandable given umpires shouldn’t guess. Yet we didn’t give a yelp after that, and I felt that too many players were not focused on the coach at 3/4 time. So after we trudged into the rooms in the great traditions of coaches past I launched my first rocket of the season. Probably a bit late to change anything on the day, but I hoped that the message got through. Didn’t help the seniors either who despite positive enthusiasm to end training on Thursday Night (Kamakaze like Footy basketball on an indoor school court) and 22 fresh players they slumped in the last term to a disappointing loss.

ROUND 5, Home vs Glenmore, WIN 8.4-5.7

If the previous week was a chance gone begging, last Saturday was an opportunity grasped. It wasn’t without the usual hiccup, with a player needing a ride from nearby Gracemere a half hour before the game. One of our players volunteered, yet a communication mix up saw the player wander to his home to pick up gear, the coach forget to tell the driver where his home was (I sent him to where I contacted the player) and the driver turn up just before siren time, only to be confused as to how many players we had on the ground (not surprising when the Under 13s had their score annulled for a 19th player on the ground earlier that day), and while he was on the bench wandering what happened, they kicked a couple of goals.

By half time we had actually nudged ahead by a narrow margin. The message had turned from the pre-match plan of “Protect The Paint”, shamelessly borrowed from the 1991 Perth Wildcats and adapted, to just get the ball to ground because we had proven to be the cleanest team. Then when we held them to a single goal in the 3rd term when they had the scoring end, the final message I gave the team was that we have 20 minutes to win this game, not two. I’d love to think the words had a profound effect (I reckon Pete Slee’s little burst before and an adjustment to the forward line getting the more mobile players higher and the slower bigger bodies deeper had more of an effect) but we kicked away in the last quarter. I even had time to direct players to the backline to create an extra man, and also to use a little bit of Whitten from the sideline (“HIT THE BOUNDARY LINE!”). In the end I was able to congratulate the support staff of two (an assistant who was the senior team manager and a 17-year-old lass who acted as my team manager) and the 15 others who at least got us off the mark. The compliments didn’t quite extend to singing the song, I reckon Delta or Seal may have been convinced to take us on The Voice….if we bribed them enough. The seniors didn’t quite find our win inspiring, conceding eight goals to one in the opening term and never recovering.

 

So with the team at 1-4 and off the bottom of the ladder (a game and substantial percentage off 4th spot), I depart this week for South Africa to run in the Comrades Marathon. Only fools would be stupid enough to try to coach reserve grade in Queensland, only absolute madmen would leave the side in the hands of someone else to run 87km halfway around the world.

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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