North Melbourne's groundbreaking work in Ballarat flies under radar

COMMENT

METRO media flocked to our town hall to put North Melbourne coach Brad Scott, and key senior players, under the spotlight (quite literally).

They were hunting and digging for something – anything – newsbreaking in a relatively routine lead-in to AFL pre-season hit-outs.

So they trekked to Ballarat, mostly congregating at a civic reception for the Kangaroos on Thursday morning.

There was one ground-breaking story that went under the radar.

It may not attract big headlines, carry controversy, or feature a Majak Daw in his Speedos photo shoot, but for Ballarat and the western Victoria region’s football, it has the potential to make a strong impact and will spark great flow-on effects.

Brad Scott was directly bringing AFL back to grassroots football via our elite juniors.

Scott and his full coaching staff took North Ballarat Rebels’ training.

This is the first time – by both clubs’ understanding – that an active AFL club coach has led training for a TAC Cup under-18 team.

Rebels coaches were on field working alongside the Kangaroos.

About 50 regional football coaches watched from the sidelines. Post-training, all Kangaroos coaches were accessible to answer questions and offer advice.

Rebels coach David Loader said handing over the reins to another coach – “one of the best qualified coaches in Australia” – was easy.

There was nothing drastically revolutionary in the drills Scott staged.

What he did was open the door to his basic operations in a football world where most clubs like to keep their methods completely under wraps to maintain even the slightest competitive edge.

North Melbourne has a successful and well-established partial alignment with North Ballarat Roosters in the Victorian Football League.

Roos coaches work closely and maintain constant dialogue with Roosters’ head coach Gerard FitzGerald and staff. Scott confirmed that FitzGerald would join him again in the coaches’ box for the NAB Challenge clash with Carlton next Saturday.

They work closely to maintain a smooth pathway for players moving between ranks and to reinforce an understanding in how the Kangaroos are operating, in on-field processes and culturally.

This in turn raises the Roosters’ standards in line with the AFL.

There has always been a good partnership between the Roosters and the Rebels. They boast the strongest pathway in the VFL/TAC Cup, and both clubs operate with high accessibility to the region’s coaches via match day experiences or general advice.

This was different.

This time, Scott worked directly with the Rebels and regional coaches so they could see first-hand the Kangaroos’ coaching philosophy.

He trained the Rebels exactly as he would the Kangaroos.

Scott told The Courier that, as coaching was his speciality, it was what he wanted to offer the region in the community camp.

Loader said it was fantastic for the Rebels, too.

The Rebels, with players still trialling for spots in the squad, turned on a good show.

An extra buzz about training was similar to pre-match routines.

The Rebels were on display for the Kangaroos and regional coaches to see exactly what their program was about.

These are players who could be future AFL draftees or may move into VFL ranks.

The bulk will move back to grassroots clubs, taking with them all they have learned from their time at Eureka Stadium and, importantly, passing that on to their grassroots clubmates.

Much has been praised about the Kangaroos’ whole roster – from their stars to their rookies – working in the community the past two days and strengthening the club’s relationship with the city.

Thursday evening’s relatively unnoticed session goes right to the heart of what this relationship is all about.

Scott, by working directly with such players and those who coach them, is working hands-on to help improve the standard of football in the entire region.

melanie.whelan@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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