Development Squad coach Sean Lewis reviews the 2017 season…
2017 was a tough year in many aspects but also one of promise for the future of the club. Back in February when I presented to the committee on the upcoming season I stated that the coaches felt we were about 10 players short on the training track when compared to previous years and that rang true with the Development Squad playing short in about half our games across the season. Despite this adversity there is one thing the team could not be accused of and that was playing with pride for the jumper.
We had a tough start to the year in Round 1 with only 19 players and Smokes filling in as coach for me, we suffered a big loss at the hands of Swinburne who had continued their strong form from last year. In Round 2 & 3 we showed our Jekyll & Hyde performances as we came up against Powerhouse in Round 2 and got a great win on the back of some scintillating team football while Round 3 saw us capitulate to South Melbourne which was probably the low of the season for me.
Round 4 saw us play at “Home” on Elsternwick Park and despite a huge team performance we were unable to grab a win as we drew with the Canterbury. Rounds 5 to 9 we difficult as we struggled with numbers and attitude, in this period of the season I felt some players were just going through the motions rather than trying to improve. But out of the Round 9 loss to Point Cook we saw the group dig its heels in and be determined not to let the season ‘just play out’. Round 10 saw us thump South Melbourne and show what we could do when we were able to work together. While in Round 11 with 1 on the bench to start the game and no bench from the 4th minute of the game we fought to the bitter end only to suffer slim defeat against Canterbury. This just continued to show the team’s determination and resolve. Round 12 was no easier coming up against a strong Powerhouse outfit we took the game right to them before 1 bad quarter cost us the game but again we paid the price for missed opportunities with 9 shots at goal to 4 in the first quarter only giving us a 10 point lead and 12 scoring shots to 11 at half time equating to us being behind by 14 points, we were our own worst enemy at times in our conversion and scoreboard pressure and I can sympathise with Ken Hinkley on goal kicking accuracy.
After the final bye round we had a tough little run coming up against the undefeated league leaders in UHS, followed by the dreaded trip to La Trobe and then a visit to 2nd place Richmond Central. This was the point in the season where as a coach I shifted the focus from the scoreboard to our development, knowing that we were struggling for numbers we made the last 6 games about us and our development as a unit. Each game we set ourselves little goals to instil our game plan and skills to get reward out of difficult games. Against UHS-VU it was to generate forward pressure by maintaining the ball in our forward half of the ground for 17min versus our target of 10min in the last quarter with only 1 left on the bench, against La Trobe with just 16 players our goal was to not give in and fight it out by laying 20 tackles a quarter which we beat with around 85 for that game and finally against Richmond Central it was to win the clearances which we did until we lost ‘Party’ Joel to concussion along with Simon Hislop and our bench had evaporated before the game was blown out in the last quarter.
We headed into the last 3 games believing we could win all 3 with the type of footy we had been playing against some top sides, the team’s refusal to give in against the odds was inspiring at times and we certainly gave ourselves plenty of opportunity to win but ultimately little errors, lapses in concentration and effort cost us in every game as we let wins slip between our fingers. Many of the team pushed through injuries late in the year to make sure we could field a side.
Up against Westbourne we were right in the hunt up until the last quarter but we left ourselves too much to do late in the game and again with just 20 players we suffered a key injury (broken leg to Blair Kelly) in the first half before Nate Dunne tore his hammy in the last while Conan & Murph were running around on one leg each pushing through the pain barrier for the team. Next up was Swinburne where we gave a Top 4 side a fair shake and if not for the 2nd quarter we probably would have won. It was just 20minutes of poor football that separated us from the 4th placed side which cost us and allowed them to just keep us at bay.
Our 2nd half of the season has built a strong platform for Season 2018 providing the team sticks together. Continuity is a huge part of success and that success isn’t built in just one season but it take a few years together to build something special. This club (both teams, Seniors & Development Squad) have the ability to push higher up the ladder and challenge for finals as we have shown that we can match the top teams but the limiting factor in the team’s success is player commitment. Success is built through a good culture, hard work on the training track and sacrifice throughout the season to place the team above everything but work and family. This year the culture across the whole club was amazing, you can see that just about every club event had more people than in previous years and the team stuck together after games for a beer which only helped strengthen the bonds and that sort of culture in sticking together is a big component in success but it ultimately requires the commitment, sacrifice and hard work to turn that culture into something great.
Next year will be a huge year for the club as we are on track off the field and have developed a good culture to create success from. The committee will be able to put more time and focus into recruiting to improve the depth across the club so we can look forward to adding a few more to the playing group but maintaining the playing core of the group is the key. If you have mates, work colleagues or brothers who would look better in the red & blue next season please let us know and we can work towards a successful year next year. As for all the players from this year, the club and coaches hope to see you down for pre-season training starting in November (more details to come) ready and raring to go.
I will take the chance to thank Shops & Doddsy as I feel we have done a huge job in creating a positive culture around the club and laid a strong base for the club to build success from in the future. Thanks for all your help, support and guidance over the season, it has been a pleasure working alongside you both and I have learnt so much from you both.
Finally, we get to the hardest part of this review; many of you have asked what my intentions were for next season and unfortunately I have made the very difficult decision to stand down as coach of the Development Squad after 3 years of coaching at the club. As many of you know I have a data analytics venture which is expanding over the next 12 months which will require my time and effort to build, when looking at the juggling act I have done over the season it is unfair to the club for me to continue as I would not be able to put in the work required to coach the team effectively. I have agonised over the decision for about 2 months and safe to say it is one I have made with a very heavy heart especially when I know where the teams and the club are heading. With that said, I will still be around the club and I have indicated to Tyson that I intend to continue on the committee in whatever role he needs me to be in for the club. Any chance I get next season to get down and watch a game I will be there and I can’t wait to see the club march onto success next year.
I won’t get into any specific thank you’s as the list is very long but to everyone who has been a part of my coaching journey at the Falcons whether as a player, coach, committee member or supporter I want to say thank you for your support and guidance, it’s been a real privilege to coach at the Falcons and something that I will carry with me for a long time.
I hope to see you all at the presentation night and we can share a few beers together enjoying a ripping night with a few surprises sure to pop up in the vote count.