FitzGerald happy Maple will be at milestone game

NORTH Ballarat Roosters coach Gerard FitzGerald likes the fact he will mark a career milestone in battle against his former off-sider.

Footscray captain Nick Lower with coach Chris Maple.
PICTURE: Darren Pocock, Western Bulldogs

Footscray captain Nick Lower with coach Chris Maple. PICTURE: Darren Pocock, Western Bulldogs

Chris Maple’s return to Eureka Stadium on Sunday is even shaping up as a little poetic.

Maple will lead the relaunched Footscray Bulldogs into a Victorian Football League showdown at the ground he helped make a fortress for North Ballarat Rebels until leaving for Whitten Oval’s development department at the end of the 2008 season.

And Maple will even direct from his old coaching box, with the Roosters having moved into larger, modern facilities.

Footscray will even sport Selkirk Roosters’ premiership player Brett Goodes.

The match will mark FitzGerald’s 313 games coached in the VFL/VFA, levelling the league record set by Bill Faul in 1959.

FitzGerald built his tally in two stints with the Roosters (1997-2002, returning in 2007) with stints at Springvale (2003) and Port Melbourne (2004) but had two seasons in between leading the Rebels in the TAC Cup under-18s with Maple as his assistant and successor.

It is fitting Maple and Goodes share in the milestone.

“I have a really high opinion of Chris Maple and I always have,” FitzGerald said.

“... He’s a good person and a good football person with good ideas, good drills.

“I’ll be coaching against Goodesy, who I’ve always held in the highest regard. He’s a great role model for his people.”

FitzGerald said the Roosters had  shown faith in him as a relatively inexperienced coach from Derrinallum when he joined North Ballarat.

Similarly, FitzGerald called on Maple, whose coaching background was Tatyoon and Buninyong, to join him with the Rebels to build on the good work he had shown at Ballarat High School.

Maple brings a relatively unknown element to Eureka Stadium – Footscray has had some big wins and been humbled by former partner club Williamstown.

They will feature experienced Bulldog Daniel Giansiracusa.

The Roosters, chasing their first win, are playing an exciting brand of football that has rattled heavyweights.

They will sport North Melbourne captain Andrew Swallow, who is set to play a full game.

Celebrations for FitzGerald’s milestone will wait. The Roosters are firmly focused on the task at hand.

melanie.whelan@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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