Congratulations to Diggers Rest Seniors and Reserves on winning RDFL grand finals
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YOU HAVE TO BE CRAZY’, SAY THOSE IN KNOW
IT TAKES a rare breed of person to coach in community football.
Main Picture: GREG SCULLIN Diggers Rest coach Shaun Sims takes his side through pre-season training earlier this year while (inset) Bundoora coach Phil Plunkett and Essendon Doutta Stars coach Dean Wallis instruct their troops.
With the job becoming more demanding by the year, an unwavering passion for the sport is a prerequisite.
Many coaches juggle fulltime work and families with the role, which can involve more than 30 hours a week.
Gone are the days where a local football coach would grab a post-match beer and simply switch off after a win.
Most are straight into post-match meetings, analysing statistics and quickly planning for their next assignment.
“If you didn’t really enjoy it you wouldn’t do it because … you’ve got to be crazy to be a coach,” Bundoora coach Phil Plunkett said.
Plunkett has coached since 2006, when he took on the reserves job at Northern Bullants in the VFL.
He has since led Heidelberg, Oak Park and Bundoora, citing the availability of match replays as the biggest change during the past decade.
“I wouldn’t say more homework, there’s more access,” he said.
“I used to send a guy along that would tell me how they set up and what they were able to do.”
Plunkett has four children aged 14 and under and works in the construction industry.
“I’m fairly lucky, my wife is fairly lenient in that regard,” he said.
It is a similar juggling act for Diggers Rest coach Shaun Sims, who has three children under seven and works fulltime as a teacher.
In his third year at the helm of the Riddell District Football League club, Sims said coaching was a sevenday-a-week job, but most of the time it did not feel like work.
“I get a lot of enjoyment out of it,” Sims said.
“Things you try to talk about and preach and seeing that in action can be a really rewarding experience.
“It’s a big job and it’s probably all-encompassing these days with the way footy has gone but I suppose I’m lucky in a sense that I’ve got a really strong committee and president who support me with what I ask for.”
The increased demands of senior coaching prompted Western Region Football League club North Footscray to appoint Matt Walsh and Shaun Borlase as cocoaches in 2014.
Walsh estimated the pair spent a combined 40 hours on football matters each week.
“We’ve both got two young kids each, so it does certainly make our lives easier that we can split the workload,” Walsh said.
“I don’t think we could probably do it one out. It would be very difficult.”
Walsh and Borlase have signed on for 2017, having steered the Devils to the top of the Division 2 ladder this year.
The off-season can present as many challenges as the home-and-away rounds, as Essendon Doutta Stars coach Dean Wallis can attest.
His side won the Essendon District Football League Division 1 grand final last year but was already planning for life in Premier Division just a few days later.
“We celebrated on the Sunday and the Monday after the grand final,” the former Essendon champion said.
“On the Tuesday we started signing all the players that were part of our plans. The fellas that helped me, basically since that Tuesday (until March) we were four or five nights a week around the clock. We would have interviewed 120 or 130 players. It’s a very time consuming venture.”
Thomastown mentor Dean Sinclair — who led the Bears from 2006-2010 before being coaxed back in 2014 — is well aware of the sacrifices a coach has to make.
He has put travel plans on hold over the past decade to lead Thomastown in two stints and has twice enjoyed the ultimate success with flags in 2008 and 2014.
“You’ve probably got to be a different sort of person to take it on,” Sinclair said.
“These days, with the demands, it’s a lot more. It’s a big sacrifice.”
Sinclair is single and runs his own business, which he credits with enabling him to fit coaching into his schedule.