Spotlight shines on FitzGerald ahead of record-breaking match

Gerard FitzGerald
Gerard FitzGerald

NORTH Ballarat Roosters coach Gerard FitzGerald says hype about his impending record-breaking match has forced him to reflect deeper on his coaching philosophy than he thought he might.

There has effectively been a three-week build-up to Sunday – record day – when FitzGerald coaches his 314th Victorian Football League match to surpass the legendary Bill Faul.

FitzGerald levelled Faul’s VFL/VFA record on May 4. The Roosters won a two-point thriller, their first season win, against the re-launched Footscray Bulldogs, led by FitzGerald’s protege Chris Maple at Eureka Stadium.

Media interest intensified in the days after the match, particularly on last round’s bye weekend in which FitzGerald also featured on the VFL television broadcast as a guest commentator and popular ABC radio show The Coodabeens.

FitzGerald said the interest had been an honour and, thanks to the bye, not too overwhelming. It has given him time to space out interviews and enjoy reflecting on his career before stepping up match preparations.

“Questions have been quite interesting about my philosophy and different experiences, like the sadness I felt leaving here (North Ballarat) in 2002, which was a heartbreaking time but I had a choice to either develop and get better or wither,” FitzGerald said.

“I’ve cottoned-on to the phrase to be tomorrow’s man with yesterday’s experience - working with experience of my past to become tomorrow’s coach.

“...The things that don’t change are the fundamentals, like how you treat people, but methodology should evolve.”

FitzGerald sought  feedback from those he worked alongside in his broadcast experience at the weekend. While live media is not new to FitzGerald, it was another chance to make sure he was making his points effectively for the forum he was speaking in.

Technology and the changes in structure for Roosters’ development players, sending them back to grassroots leagues when not required for VFL duty, have sparked the biggest changes to FitzGerald’s daily coaching processes in the past two seasons.

“If you told me a couple of years ago that we would film from behind the goals at training and take that footage in to use with the group the same night, I never would have thought it could happen, but I’ve always been one to say let’s see if we can make this happen – it’s amazing what can happen when you give something a go,” FitzGerald said.

“I’ve felt all along from a coaching point of view that I would still want to have my own development side, too, but to become ‘tomorrow’s man’ I knew that had to change.

“The way the competition is developing, far too many of our people would be split between games at different grounds and on different days. It wouldn’t be sustainable.

“Having our players in the Ballarat Football League is good for the growth and development of the game in the region.” 

FitzGerald says he has had two great coaching cycles with North Ballarat Roosters, including the 2008-10 premiership era, and as the game moves on, so too will he adapt.


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