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Ray Carroll’s ‘From the Boundary’: June 18, 2024

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The North Central Review
The North Central Reviewhttps://ncreview.com.au/
The North Central Review is an independently owned newspaper publishing company based in Kilmore that is responsible for publishing two community newspapers each week, covering communities within the Mitchell Shire

Like the return of springtime, the start of each season is a time of freshness and anticipation. Nowhere is there a greater air of expectancy than within the realms of a football club.

From officials, supporters, and players there is a fresh keenness, and hopes are high, whether justifiably so or not. The coach, of course, is super keen. Or at least he should be, for the drive and energy must originate from the team’s mentor.

Talking to various clubs at different levels pre-season to highlight certain areas are vital to a club or team’s success. Training should be interesting – even at times innovative – although there are fundamental drills in all sports that must not be ignored. No matter how our Australian game has evolved through time, there remains one basic truth – and in the words of legendary Geelong Coach Reg Hickey, it is: “First get the ball, then direct it to a teammate in a better position”.

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All team games in truth are fairly basic, and I am convinced that for individual or team success the keynote is discipline. Rewards do not come without this trait, a virtue sadly somewhat maligned in many areas of modem life by the trendies and the “ideas” people.

Properly imposed discipline leads to self-discipline, and the latter maybe closely tied in with selflessness, teamwork, and loyalty – those oh-so vital ingredients for a truly worthwhile life.

Some people play sport for monetary gain, but the great majority play for the love of contest and for reasons such as personal pride, enjoyment, physical fitness, and the satisfaction that comes from being part of a united and successful team.

There are many we owe to in this life – for example family, friends, and those who support us in good times and bad – and thus a talented footballer has a God-given opportunity to provide pleasure and “pay back” to all who are part of his life.

Of all the games played with a ball on this planet, our own native game is surely one of the most emotional. It can bring out the best and worst in people – mostly, though, it is the former.

Any football team requires certain things: a cohesive committee: a respected coach, a captain who leads from the front, and committed players who know what it is to “give”, rather than merely being on the “take”.

A coach is really at the mercy of his players who can “make” or “break” him. And in many respects, a coach’s task is a lonely one. 

There is truth in the saying: “A victory is owned and claimed by hundreds, sometimes thousands of people, but strangely a defeat becomes the sole property of the coach”.

I believe a coach’s finest contribution is in the intangible area known as “spirit”. Spirit, if properly tapped, can move mountains, and there are innumerable inspiring examples from all fields of human endeavour that testify to the triumph of a devoted spirit. I think of some of the truly great coaches – Vince Lombardi, Helmut Schoen, Knute Rockne, Allan Jeans, John Kennedy, Ron Barassi, David Parkin, Kevin Sheedy, Mark Thompson, and Leigh Matthews – just to name a few. All were able to lift their charges to emotional heights when the battle required a fierce surge of spirit.

Think of Frank Worrell’s epic one-handed century against Lindwall and Miller at the MCG 60 years ago. Think of explorer Mawson’s incredible courage and endurance. Think of the episode known as Rorke’s Drift from the Zulu Wars – nothing is more inspirational than these amazing feats of bravery and resistance.

The coach must appeal to his players to be honest, not to hide behind excuses, to contribute at all times, and to learn to respect teammates, opponents, and umpires.

A responsible mentor will set attainable goals: Play to your peak, be consistent, be supportive, play through the pain barrier within reason, win the next game, and reach the finals.

As for the game itself, we never cease to learn. Over many years, some truly outstanding players have played in Assumption College Kilmore (ACK) football teams.

From the past generation, they include Bernie McCarthy, John Bahen, Francis Bourke, Peter Crimmins, Kevin Heath, Peter Keenan, Laurie Serafini, Peter McCormack, Neale Daniher, Simon O’Donnell, Philip Egan, Bill Brownless, Tim Powell, Barry Young, Matthew Dundas, David King, Ben Dixon, Shane Crawford, Jason Johnson, and Richard Douglas.

There are of course many others – it is just that the aforementioned have been most prominent to the wider public. Even as lads they taught me a lot, and they were single-minded in their desire to attain a most high level. Almost without exception, their powers of concentration, their mental preparation for games (particularly important ones), their attitude to training, and their refusal to surrender the initiative were common traits.

Fellows such as Bourke, Crimmins, Daniher, O’Donnell, and Crawford were at their best when their teams were trailing on the scoreboard in vital clashes.

Their approach then highlighted the truism that states: “If you really want to see a champion in action, have a look at him when he’s getting licked”.

For a team’s success there must be organisation and planning. Very little happens in this life without effort – without at times some blood, sweat, and tears. Luck does play its part in many areas of sport but is in reality a fact that the harder we work at something, the luckier we tend to get. Communication is a vital coaching ingredient. The ability to “read” players and understand them – for all are in some way different.

Pictured is the 1990 ACK Captain Jason Smith, with the All-Australian championship trophy at Geelong.

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I was very lucky to be at the helm of 50 ACK football and cricket premiership teams across four decades – AGSV, Herald Sun Shield, Phoenix Cup, and Crusaded Cricket Australia. It was the players who triumphed.

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The legendary Shane Crawford (ACK 1989-92) played 305 AFL games and won the 1999 Brownlow Medal.

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THE CLAN GATHERS

Fran and Don Comans of Kilmore gathered at Tooborac Hotel for a special celebration. They are pictured with their eight children, some of whom came from QLD and WA for the occasion. It was the first time all had been in one place for two decades.

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