Old Dog brings tricks to Sandy
Those who enjoyed watching Lindsay Gilbee in action for the Western Bulldogs will have a good idea of how Sandringham’s new senior coach will operate.
The 35-year-old played 206 AFL games from 2000-12, becoming renowned for his long, skilful kicking and daring play running off half back.
Gilbee never really thought about a possible future career in coaching while he was still playing, but after a year away from football in 2013, he returned to it as a development coach at St Kilda.
Three years later, he was ready to step up and bring his unique style to the Zebras when 2015 VFL Coach of the Year Paul Hudson moved on after two seasons as senior coach.
“I want my team to be incredibly risky with the footy,” Gilbee said. “I want them to enjoy their footy, and if they see the footy, get the footy and just play on instinct.
“Structures are important, but all they are is a starting point to play footy. I’ll give them the licence to do that type of (riskier) stuff.
“I think you’ve got to be bold. It’s an area of the game where we probably went into our shells towards the end of the year when we lost a fair few games (seven of the last nine). I think we can make some improvements in that area.”
Gilbee said his “laid-back” coaching style would mean “extremely, extremely short” meetings during the week, while his past experience playing in the Peter Jackson VFL should also endear him to his new charges.
Gilbee often played for the Bulldogs’ VFL affiliate Werribee early in his AFL career and also represented Williamstown in his final years, and with the removal of the rule restricting St Kilda-listed players to filling a maximum of 15 spots in Sandringham’s senior team, he’ll likely be dealing with plenty of Saints unable to break into the AFL side.
“I’ve played 50-odd games myself at VFL level, so I can understand the St Kilda players’ perspective when they come to Sandringham,” Gilbee said. “It’s not where they ideally want to be, and I know where they’re coming from and how disappointed they are.
“I think that’s an advantage I’ve got. Having played the game, I understand how hard it is. That’s one thing that sets you in good stead as a coach.
“With the way St Kilda finished last year (9th with a record of 12-10) and the list they’ve assembled, there’ll certainly be a good side running around at VFL level this year along with the guys we’ve got at Sandringham such as Kade Answerth, Myke Cook and Jack Noone.
“We also recruited (delisted Saints midfielder) Tom Curren, who we really wanted because he’s such a good person. He’s a guy who’ll set really good standards around the footy club and he’s well respected at St Kilda.”
Stocked with talent on the alignment’s AFL and VFL lists, Gilbee will look to add to the ranks of young, recently-retired AFL players who have enjoyed success as senior VFL coaches, such as former Footscray coach Ash Hansen who guided the Bulldogs to last year’s VFL premiership and 2016 Essendon VFL coach Matthew Egan who has moved into a top role with Melbourne’s AFL team.
Meanwhile, Chris Newman and Jared Rivers are others who will join Gilbee as senior VFL coaches in 2017 at the Box Hill Hawks and Collingwood respectively.
“If you had asked me four years ago when I started in the role as a development coach at the Saints (about a senior coaching role), I would have thought I was a long way off it,” Gilbee said.
“I was the type of player who just went out there and played – that’s kind of what worked for me. (So when I started coaching, the issue) was just the confidence to speak in front of a group all the time and constantly looking at ways to keep them stimulated, because footy at the elite level can be quite monotonous.
“But I think I’m really good at just keeping footy fun, and I reckon I read people really well and read groups really well.”
Like his ability to make the game fun to watch for Western Bulldogs’ fans through the 2000s and his expert reading of the play in defence, some of Gilbee’s best footballing traits seem to have easily transferred to his coaching career.