A New Direction
By Daniel Kovacevic
Preparation for the 2013 season is underway at Whitefrairs Old Collegians Football Club with players returning to training ahead of the Christmas break.
In late November the club was proud to introduce players to their new senior coach, Gerard Kennedy. A former player at the club, Gerard maintains a skilful pedigree, a developed understanding of the game, and an attitude demanding focus and commitment. Having witnessed the disappointment of last year’s preliminary final loss, Gerard addressed a group of roughly 50 players and delivered his earnest evaluation: while the club has its strengths, there are some areas that obviously need to be improved.
As far as preseason training is concerned the club plans to shift the focus from quantity to quality; intentions are that while a player is at the club he is giving his full attention. Sessions will be shorter, but a level of higher intensity – something mimicking the output seen on game day – is expected from those participating.
Work has begun on developing the club’s ability to compete in terms of team structure and match tactics. Players have been run through their paces in drills focused on forward and defensive zones, defence to forward transition, and stoppage set up. House bricks have, as of yet, not made an appearance on the training track.
Having spent some time away from the club following the end of his playing days, Gerard is pleased with what he has seen so far and has been particularly impressed with numbers at training.
“We had 50 the first night, and then sort of 20 [from] there on. So the guys have gotten into it, which is pretty good for this time of year.”
The player who lead the club last year, Michael Mirrabella, has been limited to running and kicking on his left side following some work to his ankle, but was also quick to praise the effort of those teammates who have managed to attend pre-Christmas.
“Numbers have been very good. I think the new coach helps – a lot of people want to come down and impress.”
Another focus from the club for the upcoming season is a turnaround in the high number of soft tissue injuries players incurred last year. Club physio and assistant senior coach Ben Janson has stated, without hesitation, that the club won’t be able to make the next step if it has a similar injury toll this year. In a measure to counter this Ben has developed a core-strengthening program for players to take with them and execute away from the club. The routine should take no longer than 15 minutes and can be done in front of the television, if need be.
Tom Woodman was one player who missed large portions of football last year through injury. A talented cricketer, Tom has given the summer sport away to focus on getting his body in peak condition for 2013.
“No cricket this year; just focusing on footy at the moment. With the injuries and everything I thought I’d just concentrate on getting the body right. Whatever it takes. I’m hitting the gym; I’ve put on about half a kilo, in about four months of hard work, so I’m looking good. Things are going well.”
The usual suspects have impressed during the handful of training sessions held so far this year: Rob Petracca has excelled during competitive drills; Mitch Geilings finished first in the three kilometre time trial, lapping most others; Luke Kaldor has again been the best stretcher. Rob, who missed a number of games last year through suspension, is adamant he’s changed his ways.
“I’ve definitely learnt my lesson; I’m not driving back to Elsternwick again.”
A few new faces have also made it down to test themselves during preseason. Alex Marcello, coaxed down to the club by cousin Michael Mirrabella, has stood out to many, having played with Donvale in the Eastern Football League over the last couple of seasons. Alex is excited by the prospect of the different style of football the Victorian Amateur Football League has to offer.
“I came and watched the [preliminary] final, and I think it’s a pretty similar standard, to be honest. I was talking to Mazza (Daniel Massarotti) and he was saying ammos is usually seen as a lot more skilled and EFL’s a lot more congested with contested footy. I definitely saw that. The skills at training so far have been better than Donvale – early on. [I’m] probably expecting a bit more skilful, [quicker] style of game.”
Angelo Pace is another new arrival who has impressed on the training track. Boasting a strong pair of hands and amazingly accurate shot at goal, the ex Ivanhoe and Fitzroy Reds forward was a little sheepish when discussing his previous exploits – including a 109 goal season in 2008.
A final training session is scheduled for Monday 17th December, including another three kilometre time trial, with a casual social night planned for Wednesday 19th December before the team breaks for Christmas. Anyone who has previously played with the club, and anyone who is thinking about pulling on the boots next season, is encouraged to make it down to show their face and introduce themselves to the new coach.
Vice President cum roving reporter Tony Mitchell has been around the club interviewing the players and the common goal for the coming season is team success. Attending the final few sessions before the break is an excellent way to motivate yourself leading into summer. Ben Chandler put it nicely when asked what he had got out of training so far this year.
Training is set to resume in the new year on Wednesday 30th January.
The club will sign off for the year with its annual fundraising event: a sausage sizzle held at Bunnings Warehouse Nunawading. The event will run from 9.00am to 4.00pm, and thus needs a large number of volunteers to keep things ticking over. Director of Football Operations, Peter Ciardulli, is the man in charge this year, and anyone interested in lending a hand by putting in a shift should contact him for further details.