The Archive | Seven years ago the annual “who will coach who” merry-go-round was up and rolling.
It was late August in 2011 and Kangaroo Flat led the way after announcing soon-to-be 23-year-old Tyrone ‘Tigga’ Downie as its 2012 senior playing coach.
Tigga took over from Murray Collins who was due to step aside following two years in charge of the Roos.
Muzza ended his two-season tenure as Flat coach on Saturday night, August 27th, 2011.
In other major BFNL changes Kyneton announced former Hawthorn and North Melbourne forward Nathan Thompson would co-coach the Tigers with dual premiership mentor, Derrick Filo.
And Castlemaine re-signed Lenny Watson as its senior coach. Watson had taken over the reins at the Camp Reserve after 2011’s Round 6 had been completed, so coached for the concluding 12 weekends.
On August 30th Maryborough announced Michelsen Medallist Matt Aston had been re-appointed senior coach. It was to be Aston’s second season in charge.
Considering by many tipsters and pundits to be potential wooden spooners, Maryborough flourished in 2011.
Aston led the Princes Park Pies to seventh place with a 9-9 record including wins over second-placed Eaglehawk as well as Strathfieldsaye.
In among these changes and re-signings a number of other senior coaches retained their positions.
Prime among the re-signings and re-appointments were Darryl Wilson (Strath Storm), Luke Saunders (Gisborne) and Tony ‘Snake’ Graham (Sandhurst).
Rick Coburn remained at the helm at South Bendigo while Luke Monaghan was still in charge at Eaglehawk.
Unbeaten Golden Square (18-0) hadn’t made any announcement about senior coach Nick Carter, but the Dogs were expected to wait until the end of September to make any decision.
Square was chasing its third consecutive flag after winning the 2009 and 2010 grand finals.
Biggest news seven years ago was the Downie announcement.
He’d been captain at the Flat for four seasons meaning he was the on-field leader when he was just 19.
“I suppose it’s a bit of a big ask to be coaching at such a young age, but I’ll give it my best shot and we’ll see what happens,” Downie told the Addy.
“We know we’ve got to improve a fair bit on this season so I’ll be working hard to put a few things in place and I’ll be trying to recruit a few blokes.”
Downie mentioned his focus would be on recruiting “strong experienced bodies with a bit of size about them” to Dower Park for the upcoming 2012 BFNL season.
The Roos missed the finals for the second consecutive year in 2011 after reaching the preliminary final in 2009.
They won just the five games and finished in eighth spot.
A highlight of Downie’s excellent footy career was his rookie listing by AFL newcomers Gold Coast Suns in December 2014.
He was recruited from VFL side the Bendigo Gold and ended up playing 16 games for the Gold Coast in the NEAFL, booted 30 goals and was voted 2015’s best player for the Suns in Queensland’s second tier competition.
Looking back seven years it’s amazing to recall Strathfieldsaye’s string of close losses by seven points, or less.
The Storm, under coach Wilson, lost five games by a kick or a kick-and-a-bit to miss the finals by two games.
Things could have panned out quite differently had Strathfieldsaye been able to win these close games: against Eaglehawk, lost by four points in round 4, versus Gisborne in Rd. 10 (3 points), the Hawks again in Rd. 13 (6 points), South Bendigo in Rd. 17 (6 points) and Maryborough in Rd. 18 (7 points).
Had the Storm won all five of these tight encounters not only would they have made the BFNL finals for the first time, they would have finished second (with the double chance) on a 14-4 record.
And finished three clear games ahead of Gisborne, Eaglehawk and Sandhurst who all ended 2011 with 11-7 win-loss accounts.
With the first weekend of the finals looming Gisborne suffered a double whammy with playing coach Luke Saunders and midfielder Stewart Hamilton both unavailable for the qualifying final.
Saunders had played just two games since round 5 with a hamstring injury his latest setback.
Hamilton was set to miss the Sunday qualifying final against Eaglehawk with a back injury.
But the Graveyard Dogs were set to welcome back goalsneak Darren Farrugia who had missed the round 18 186-point massacre of the Flat with a virus.
Unfortunately they’d lost pacy winger Luke Curcio with a broken finger for the year.
Eaglehawk was hopeful of getting back ruckman Julian Lockwood after he was rested for rd. 18. General soreness was listed as his complaint.
Ex-Gisborne premiership star Shane Davis and Travis Matheson had to get through Eaglehawk’s final training run on the Thursday night if they wanted to be selected for Sunday.
South Bendigo hoped to have Brad Wright (knee), Neville Clarke (calf) and Liam Byrne (virus) back for the Saturday night elimination final against Sandhurst.
Steven Stroobants was also a chance if he wasn’t picked for the (then) VFL side, the Bendigo Bombers.
The Bloods were hardest hit by injury of all the 2011 finals-bound clubs.
Ben Allen and Rory Alexander had been outed with broken collarbones while Jayden Sheean and Josh Smith were also stuck on the sidelines with knee injuries.
The Dragons were going to be close to full strength. Michael Cornish (knee) was to undergo a rigorous final training session although Pat Jennings (broken leg) had been sidelined for the rest of 2011.
With the first weekend of the finals off, the Square expected three important players to be ready for the second semi-final.
Big man James Bristow (ankle), speedy linkman Mark Lloyd (back) and Josh Baird (groin) were all tipped to be ready for Week 2 of the finals.
Reflecting on his re-appointment at Maryborough Aston had cleared his work commitments from clashing with time available for coaching.
“Finals has to be our goal for 2012,” Aston told the Advertiser.
“We need to recruit some numbers so that we’ve got some depth and to make our list stronger.
“We haven’t got the funds to buy in players and push the likes of Golden Square and Gisborne for the flag.
“But we desperately need to add some players so that we can take that next step, score more wins than losses and make the finals,” Aston said.
The Magpie coach said the core group of the 2011 squad had indicated they’d stay on with Maryborough for 2012.
“We’ve spoken to the players already, even though it’s only the end of August, and most of them are happy with where the club is heading,” Aston said.
The coach added Bodie Malone and Dylan Clarkson had been travelling up from Geelong each week for the past three years so their commitments for 2012 had to be re-assessed.
“Glen Chadwick and Cameron Skinner are also weighing up what they’ll do, as well,” Aston said.
Tyson MacIlwain, who did most of the ruckwork for Maryborough in 2011, would be better suited as a key forward or a key defender the coach explained.
MacIlwain was a popular winner of the senior club medal, named after his father: Maryborough club legend, Geoff MacIlwain.
Tyson just edged out midfielder Matt Johnston in a close senior vote count.
Overall Player of the Year in the Advertiser poll was Grant Weeks (GS) on 35, just one ahead of teammate Simon Rosa on 34.
In third place was Wayne Schultz (Cm) on 26, with Jon Coghlan (Sh) and Josh Bowe (Eh) next with 25 votes and 24 respectively.
By Richard Jones