Yarra Man: All together now

By Tavis Perry

This year I’m playing for Yarrawonga, which is affiliated with the Ovens and Murray Football League. Like a lot of country players I’m living and working in Melbourne, which makes it impossible to get to training with the team in Yarrawonga. This is common for county footballers.
Yarrawonga have 13 footballers who are based in Melbourne and make the three-hour trek each weekend to don the Pigeons’ jumper. Most clubs prefer to have their city players train together but this can be a logistical nightmare, as players often live in different parts of the city—and most clubs are reluctant to allow thirteen players to join their training group. To minimise these burdens, Yarrawonga struck up an agreement with the North Melbourne footy club that allows Yarrawonga players to use the Arden Street facilities twice a week. Arden Street offers a best-case scenario as it’s central, it’s accessible from most parts of the city, it has an excellent surface and training lights, and it gives the Melbourne-based Yarrawonga boys the chance to train together. If we trained with separate clubs we mightn’t get the chance to bond as well as we have, and the opportunity to practise the team’s set plays would be minimal.
I’m the most experienced of the Melbourne-based players and I’ve had experience with assistant-coaching roles, so I was more than happy to oblige when the club approached me to be responsible for the training group. I thought that thirteen wouldn’t be enough for certain drills, and that if any players failed to show up the rest of the group’s training would suffer, so I invited a few mates who play at Rochester. Rochester have seven city-based players who travel back each weekend and they were happy to join us. Word spread quickly and it wasn’t long before we had 35 city-based country players at each Arden Street session.
Many were encouraged to attend by their country club. Presidents from those clubs have told me they like their players to train with a ‘neutral’ group. Previously, they had found that if their players trained with a city club they were placed under pressure to join that club the following year. Or the players decided that if they were going to train with a city club they might as well play there.
It’s strange to have players from up to eight clubs training together. Because there can be a large turnover of players and we don’t have much time to train, we haven’t had been able to introduce all the players to each other. Naturally, players who are teammates tend to stick together, especially when they first join the group, so the first training runs were quite flat and I had to emphasise the importance of getting to know each other’s names. Still, there were a lot of calls of “mate” or “champ” or making up a nickname based on the jumper the player was wearing; “Hirdy”, “Buddy” and “Fev” were common.
The improvement in training since we started in February has been vast. I was expecting a substantial drop-off in numbers as the weather got colder but the turnout has remained constant at about 35 and the standard of training has remained exceptional. Most of the players who train with us are quality country footballers and a few of them have joked that if we entered a team into a country competition we’d acquit ourselves very well. Even most of the reserve-grade players who train with us have good skills, so it’s a rarity to see the ball hit the ground. The group has bonded really well and the rise in encouragement has increased the intensity of training. I have focused on trying to maximise the amount of possession time each player receives and the outcome of this has been that training flows really well.
Overall the Arden Street training sessions have been an outstanding success and I thoroughly recommend that country clubs who have players based in the city should examine getting their players involved in something similar.

Leave a Comment