THERE’S barely anything of him, but Gordon’s Mick Nolan is one of those blokes who can command plenty of time and effort from opposition coaches.
And as hard as they’ve tried this season, Nolan has proved to be a headache.
The small forward has become increasingly dangerous since his return to the Eagles – his junior club – from North Ballarat City in 2012, and this year tops the senior side’s goal-kicking chart with 58 majors.
In his 16 home and away matches during the season, there were big hauls against Newlyn (eight) and Smythesdale (11) among regular standout performances.
Only Creswick was able to keep him goalless, while Ballan was the only team that held him to a solitary major.
It’s a cracking return for a man of his stature, who has been rewarded with a place in the forward pocket of the Central Highlands Football League’s team of the year.
“I think my first year back at Gordon I played a fair bit of midfield. Last year was probably more forward and a little bit of midfield and then this year it has pretty much been forward,” Nolan, an apprentice plumber, said.
“It’s good to go up the ground and have a run around, but it doesn’t bother me where I play.”
Nolan kickstarted his career in the juniors at Gordon – winning a couple of best and fairests – before spending a year with extended family in Western Australia. He played football – and won another best and fairest – in the west before returning to his mother and father in Ballan. He joined North Ballarat City for a few junior years, then launched a senior career with the Eagles.
“I was good mates with Ryan Aquilina, Dan Carey and the Murphys (so I thought) I’d just come out and play close to home, so it was good,” Nolan recalled of his return to Gordon.
“It was close to home and I’d played my juniors there so it helped. All the boys were awesome. They opened the doors for me and I was back there like I hadn’t left.”
His return followed Gordon’s long-awaited finals breakthrough in 2011, but was met with disappointment when the Eagles failed to reach the top-eight, finishing 10th.
Gordon was back in the playoffs under first-year coach Corey Grills last season – but failed to make it past the opening weekend of matches – and has looked every bit the premiership threat with a standout 2014.
Nolan’s brilliance up forward has been a big part in the side’s success, but the number 15 is keen to shy away from talk of breaking the Gordon premiership drought, which stems all the way back to 1988.
“We are not even thinking about that, to be honest,” he said.
“We have got Bungaree this week and that is all that we are focused on.”
While remaining coy on his team’s flag chances, Nolan did admit its rise had come a little quicker than expected.
“I suppose it has,” he said. “But it has been pretty much through hard work and the boys have really cracked in and wanted to have a go at finals.”
Whether or not that hard work will pay off this year remains to be seen, however the new direction under Grills is certainly an exciting one for the club’s supporters.