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  • Writer's pictureOld Ignatians Football Club

2023 Presentation Dinner | Men's A Grade Coach's Speech

2023 was a development year for the A grade team – not sure we would have designed it to play out the way it did but now it has, we take the good that comes from it.

It was a year where due to a number of reasons we were unable to produce gold medal results on the oval – we did though take steps to build a team that will have sustained success in the future.

By labelling the year as developmental I am by no means brushing over the fact that the football club and myself as the coach didn’t get it right.

We lost too many players from the previous year both in terms of quality and quantity, we were unable to attract new players and some key off field structures were not in place.

Speaking about things that you wouldn’t design - We had 17 players make their A grade debut including 5 straight out of school – that’s a big ask in the uncompromising world of Div 1 football. – Now its done though we take the benefits.

Then just for fun, lets also throw in a few injuries, escapes to Europe and I am not sure we got a glimpse of what our best team might have done – the optimist in me believes that there were gold medals to be won with a fully available squad. But alas that wasn’t to be the case.

Suffice to say the playing group were presented a number of challenges, choices of how to respond and they should be very proud of that response – particularly how they stuck together.

Its bloody tough – the game we play has a profile a score a ladder and the Sunday mail. Externally its easy to have a view that winning is good silver medals are not – internally we have to recognise the good that comes despite the score.

I got a little emotional after the last game – where it was so good to be in a game with a chance late. I felt for the players and was so proud of the effort that day at the end of a hard season – during the week we had full training numbers – injured players were at training supporting – it was something special and I wanted to ensure the players valued how special it was the way they stuck fat.

Firstly before the season even started - Those who could get a game other places and stayed with us - it’s easy to leave when things look tough when the grass looks greener elsewhere - and many did - to have the character to stay and start again after a period of success - that’s real strength.

Despite the score lines– the group continued to work – training numbers were strong, and we came to games to play to win. There will always be some ups and downs with a young group and they deserve applause for their efforts.

Our leaders – Sam, Jimmy, Brad, Austin, Isaac – some had their own injury challenges - set the example on and off the field – swept the sheds – supported the team – counselled me which is definitely not easy - will benefit greatly from the experiences of leading a team through difficult times.

And off the field – club functions presentations and extra curricular activities were enjoyed and well supported.

To the Players across all grades – I say Thank you. Because you are the reason we can identify those areas as positives and if you believe as I do that culture first strategy second then the football club got better this year because of you.

The developmental year tag cannot be truly assessed now – rather it will be judged in 2-3 years as we see how the group turns the challenges endured into a team that earns sustained success.

I get confidence from being reminded that in nature.

Great wine comes from crushing Grapes

Diamonds form under pressure

And caterpillars give up a bit to be butterflies

There is always a transitional period - that is rarely fun – on the journey to success - from the challenges of 2023 –we can all be better people and footballers going forward because of it.

The accelerated playing experiences that our developing players received can only be good as we move forward.

I am biased - I like our playing group I like them as people, believe in their football ability to be the foundation of success going forward and want them to be rewarded with on field success.

That wont just magically happen.

We need those who have had a taste of the challenge of A grade football to want more of it and be prepared to do the work – get fitter, mentally tougher, bullet proof our basic skill level and be able to play team first football.

Our profile is a little different to other teams – we have a contingent of very young A grade players who have genuine potential and then a crew of slightly older players hitting their prime – so the foundation is there.

We have to be realistic enough to know they will need support - careful recruiting that supplements our squad, a bolster to coaching ranks and off field support that continues to grow the culture we want.

And with that things can change very quickly if we believe and want it enough to do what it takes on and off the field.

Thank you to sponsors, members, committee who provide the dollars, the leadership and the grunt to run a footy club.

On field success is one dimension where that support can be rewarded – more importantly and what I believe is the real value of football clubs – comes from providing a safe healthy place for young Women and Men to grow. That is a very special return on your investments that offers something you can not get everywhere.

Your money and efforts are very well spent with the quality of people who fill this club and who we have seen blossom in different ways this year (and just perhaps more than they might have in a winning season).

Paul Kirchner leads that and thank you seems like not enough for all you do – but that’s all I have.

Grace – Neve and the team of trainers – you are an important part of the changeroom and apologies for the occasional colourful rant and the door slam at PAC – that may have come as a surprise - thank you for always doing your job.

And thank you to the best team manager in the league Cliff Flower

To Coaches - Gabby, Brian, Ricey, Bails and Bails thank you for the role you played and the care you provided our players. On a selfish note - I thank you for the lessons each and everyone one of you taught me and that have made me a better coach and person.

Mouldsy thank you for putting your hand up to help the rucks and on ballers.

To the people who sent me a message called me and whispered in my ear the various words of support - very much appreciated and was a comfort to a coach waiting for a gold.

And so we look ahead and let the comeback commence.

This year we played - next year we have to compete – there is a difference - Div 2 is not easier - we have to be better - it’s probably not a one year journey to sustained success but it might be – we will set standards - stick to those standards as the results get better - be prepared to challenge ourselves and then let’s see how good we can be!

The strength of the wolf is the pack and the strength of the pack is the wolf - thank you to all of you who play your part in the pack and I implore you to keep doing so because each wolf in this club benefits from being part of it.

Thank you.

Daryl Spencer Men's A Grade Coach

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