K-ROCK Interview with our Coach Nick Smith
ONCE upon a time, not very long ago, one of the near certainties in every GDFL season was the appearance of Werribee Centrals in the finals.
In the 18 years from the return to one division in 1996 until 2013, the Centurions were part of post-season action on 14 occasions.
However since 2014 Centrals have been a spectator come finals time, with their 5-13 win-loss record in 2017 their worst return in the single-division era.
As a three-time premiership player, it’s a mark that doesn’t sit comfortably with new coach Nick Smith, who played a key role during the glory days as a member of the hat-trick of premiership between 1999-2001.
“I think any past player gets a little disappointed when you see the downturn happen.
“We did have a fair period of up years, but I’m aware we’ve been in a bit of dry spell in terms of success, and even in terms of being really competitive and being a finals contender.
“I said to the guys, “my goal for this year is to be relevant”. I get the sense we’re becoming a little irrelevant … and the best way to become relevant is to be competitive.
“We want people (opponents) to not want to come here – they probably don’t like the drive anyway – and to not want us to come to them either, because they know, at the very least, they’re going to get a competitive effort.”
A teacher for more than 20 years, it no surprise that the majority of this pre-season has been used by Smith to educate Centrals’ list.
“… I tend to go straight into teaching mode,” he said. So, I think of all the things I want them to learn, I think where I want to end up, and then I strip it all back and go, “OK. This is how we’re going to play to our footy. This is the culture”.
“I always start with culture, because I think you’ve got to get a positive mindset, you’ve got to sell where you want to head and how we’re going to do it, and then you get more specific.
“I’m very structures orientated, and when I’ve looked at them – one of the advantages is you get to watch the videos on the website, so even before I applied for the job I already knew some things about the team – one thing I observed was I wasn’t 100 per cent sure what they were trying to do.
“At the very least, if you can’t do it, I want (opposition) teams to go “they structure up well”.
That structure will be important for the Centurions, who Smith concedes can’t physically match the likes of four-time reigning premier Bell Post Hill and fellow top-three teams Inverleigh and Bannockburn.
“We don’t have a squad that can do head-to-head, so you have to play faster,” Smith said.
“Everything we’re working on is trying to utilise the athleticism and youth and enthusiasm of the group, because if we go head-to-head with them that’s ridiculous.”
Centrals will have one of the youngest lists in the competition in 2018, however Smith doesn’t see that as a negative, instead preferring to focus on the potential for improvement.
“What I get excited about is what the group looks like in three years if you can keep it together,” he said.
“You’ve got players who (will) have played 50 games and they’re only 23-years-old … some will be pushing 100 by then.
“What we can achieve this year, I think, will be the tip of the iceberg to what we can do if we keep it together.
“The challenge is that they’re so young that really don’t even know what they’re capable of yet … they’re capable of doing anything if it all comes together.”