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Ray Carroll’s ‘From the Boundary’: April 11, 2023

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Playing the game

During the long years at the helm of football and cricket at Assumption College Kilmore, it was great to be invited to sports and services clubs across Victoria and the Riverina to speak at functions.

From Wagga Wagga in the north, Mornington in the south, Mortlake in the west and Thorpdale in the east – there may have been some three hundred such visits.

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Invariably the hospitality was great and I did not require or accept payment. Some such invites have extended beyond college times and I really appreciate this.

Coaching notes

A contact, a long-time official in my old home town, asked for some coaching notes in the pre-season.

Though a bit dated I believe the following outcome is relevant to this day:

The real team player should strive to possess these attributes:

  1. Ability to read the play
  2. Take the ball cleanly – grab and play ball close to body
  3. Stamina and running power
  4. Balance – allied to recovery
  5. Control – dispose with either foot or hand to advantage
  6. Reflex action – quick reaction, prop, baulk, turn and so on
  7. Coolness: this is vital
  8. Competitive nature – fight and confidence

And remember:

  • The will to win is not as important as the will to prepare to win;
  • What your team-mate is doing for you is not nearly so important as what your are doing for him: that is what determines his attitude towards you;
  • Hard luck is composed of laziness, poor judgement and poor execution;
  • Failure is the path of least persistence;
  • A champion is a winner who has lost often;
  • Nobody is a failure till he quits trying;
  • The real champ is the player who keeps going when he can’t.

A bit hackneyed some of the latter points and doubtless you’ve heard them before but they bear repeating I feel.

As I said earlier, our game is most definitely faster now than ever before. AFL games often are contested these days at breath-taking speed. There is little room for error.

The star-versus-star confrontation of yesteryear is no longer such a feature of our code.

Lightning-quick exchanges are the order of the day. This trend has come to all ranks of football.

To survive at any level, teams cannot afford to rest on their laurels.

There has to be constant effort to ensure that speed is accentuated, skills enhanced. Because of the frenzied nature of modern-era football, motivation now plays an increasingly vital role.

There is basically no shift in ability level from last week to this week to next week but the attitude of the players can vary dramatically.

It is not possible to have teams playing on a high, game after game through a long, testing season.

So it is now the coach who must ensure that his players are ‘psyched’ for the right occasions: the important clashes where the rival sides cancel each other out in areas of skill, ability, physique and know-how.

For it is then that motivation and attitude take over and decide the day.

Then too, I’d better mention something that is so vital: the ingredient known as fighting spirit. Fighting spirit: What is it? I believe teams live or die by the depth of their fighting spirit.

It is that intangible that turns average players into good players and good players into champions.

It is the ability to fight to the last ditch and beyond in quest of victory – a dogged refusal to acknowledge defeat and a willingness to play through reasonable pain and discomfort.

A team sportsman who is not prepared to do this has no place in a team game structure.

To go further, the real team man and true fighter is the one who gives his best at all times, not just some of the time; who accepts the umpire’s verdict without question; and who, at the end of the toughest encounter, can smile and be equally gracious in victory or defeat.

Team sport is a great teacher and a great builder of character, but only if the involved pupil is willing to learn the lessons therein.

Coaches of youth teams do have an enormous responsibility.

They can influence their charges for good or ill and it is essential for the game’s future that the right men, or women, get to be the mentor.

People who will emphasise that football is a wonderful skill and fun game.

Play to win, yes, for all of life is a competition. But never lose sight of the fact that the game, any game, is greater by far than those who play it or direct it.

I think a person has to have a flair for coaching and the only way to check oneself out in this area is to have a go.

Undoubtedly there are good, mediocre and bad coaches. I’d go along with the tag ‘great’ in some cases. I’m not so sold on the super coach label though.

I think any coach of any sport, at any level, is at the mercy of his or her players. No material, no result.

I’m convinced a top coach can get maximum results from players, can lift them to greater heights; just as surely as poor coaches can drag down their teams’ and players’ achievements levels.

I’ve seen some shocking ‘coaches’ at junior level, that so vital formative period. It amazes me how some of them get the job. Ranters and ravers, ego-trippers – crude, lacking basic knowledge. This type do untold harm.

But don’t get me wrong. There are many, many, many good and sincere coaches at all levels who give of their utmost in time and devotion to duty.

To the best of their knowledge and ability they instruct wisely and have real concern and respect for those entrusted to their care.

By and large coaching is a thankless task, I guess.

More than ever in this day and age, only the winners get the acclaim and it is painfully true that all are only as good, in the eyes of the public, as their last performance.

Young gun cyclist

Another really welcome visitor was Lauren Cummins. The name features strongly across ACK history.

Lauren and three sisters were at Assumption in the early 2000s and each made a significant mark. Lauren and sister Hannah were excellent officials for the First XI and XVIII.

Lauren is ‘boss’ of a goldmine bakery she established in Mulwala, just over the river from Yarrawonga.

Now married to Dean Holgate, their young son Max, pictured below, is a highly-talented cyclist.

Shortly he and his dad will complete in father-son rides in Belgium. Aside from his folks, one of Max’s heroes is the legendary Aussie cyclist Cadel Evans.

***

Collingwood’s impressive opening round win over reigning premiers Geelong delighted their army of followers.

Though the club has only won the flag twice in this past 64 years it remains the most supported sports club in the nation.

There remains a mystique that goes back to the long ago days of legendary coach Jock McHale and the fabled philanthropist John Wren.

***

Former Socceroo’s coach Ange Postecoglou has become a darling of the famous Celtic clubs in Glasgow. Celtic and Rangers are the great rivals of Scottish football.

Celtic has a strong connection with the Marist Brothers. It was founded in 1887 by the Marist community at St Mary’s Church, its initial purpose was to alleviate poverty in East Glasgow.

Scenes of joy

Watching a fair bit of cricket from South Africa in past weeks, it was wonderful to see the enthusiasm and pure joy of the multi-racial crowds enjoyed the spectacle in total harmony.

The fans in attendance may have been even more boisterous than crowds in cricket crazy India. The current happy spectation in South Africa is a far cry from the cruel apartheid era when all non-white spectators were herded into barbed wire enclosures.

The great Nelson Mandela loved cricket and he spoke of Australia’s Noel Harvey being his idol after watching him in 1949 when South Africa hosted Australia in tests.

Star connection

Australian cricket star Beth Mooney, one of the finest players in the world, has a distant connection with Assumption.

Her great grandfather Ted Moroney was a student at the college around the 1930s. The family lived at Moranding on the Northern Highway.

Ted was a good sportsman and a great pal of Dave Joss who captained the First XVIII and First XI in 1929-30-31 and was also a champion athlete.

Ted and Dave came often to watch ACK play until the late 80s.

A well-played 50

It was nice to meet up last week with a fine couple – Felicity and Lado Kuret, the former a career nurse, the latter a longtime primary school teacher.

One of Lado’s early postings was principal of Pyalong school, of which he retains happy memories of the residents and children. Felicity has been a highly-regarded nurse.

The couple sent four sons as day students to ACK and one Eric, was one of Assumption’s finest captains and players.

He led the First XVIII to memorable AGSV and Herald Sun Shield titles in 2001. Eric’s deputy was Kilmore lad Matthew Rea and he and Eric’s folks have been great friends ever since.

Congratulations to Lado and Felicity as they celebrate 50 years of marriage.

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