David Jelbart - My Redan Story
Where did you grow up and what are some of your early footy memories and highlights?
I grew up on a farm north of Hawkesdale, halfway between Warrnambool and Hamilton. I must have had some natural inclination for the backline, as my favourite player was SOS. I’d pretend to be him in the school yard, generally playing on someone pretending to be Gary Ablett.
I also spent hours on end kicking a footy in the backyard with my little brothers. Junior footy was all at Hawkesdale in the U/16s, from when I was 12 through to 16, first as a forward pocket and then a forward flank. We won the flag in my first year, I remember getting one handball in the Grand Final, and then in my final year, which was more enjoyable as a contributing player.
Prior to joining Redan where had you been playing and had you played in a premiership?
I graduated to the seniors the next year as a scrawny wide running wingman. My first game was on Tatyoon coach Chris Maple (Now an assistant coach at the Western Bulldogs), and learnt a lot – in particular, how difficult it was to win a contest to get a touch in the seniors!
From 16 through to 23 I played either at Hawkesdale Macarthur in the Mininera FL, or West Brunswick in the Amateurs (E and F Grade).
In about mid 1999 I was diagnosed with Scheuermann's Disease, which is basically that my vertebrae took longer to harden than they should have, resulting in excessive curvature of the spine. I had to wear a back brace for about 18 months until I stopped growing.
Football and cricket were pretty much the only time I could be out of the brace, so games and training were something to really look forward to and enjoy.
In 2002, I played as a wingman in West Brunswick’s premiership. We finished third on the ladder, but were in good form coming into finals, and had real belief that we could win. We had a Special Operations Group policeman as coach, so we were also very fit, and I wasn’t the only one that was just a little bit scared of the coach! He was a massive, intimidating dude.
In 2004 I won the B&F at Hawkesdale Macarthur, generally playing at Centre Half Forward in a side that lost more than we won – I learnt plenty about making a contest, and my aerial skills developed a lot.
The next year I played at West Brunswick, where I first played back line, mostly as a back flanker and often on the opposition’s quickest player. I made the F grade team of the year, and figured it was probably time to step up in class and see if I could still get a kick.
You have a rather unique tale regarding how you came to the club. What was it about the Redan website that convinced you to don the maroon and gold?
Work with VicRoads brought me to Ballarat in January 2006. I thought it was a great opportunity to play at a higher level, but I didn’t know anybody in Ballarat. I had a look on the internet to see where the BFL clubs played and trained, and the only team that had training times and location was Redan.
One of the blokes at work followed the footy a little bit, so I asked him about Redan and Kieran Murrihy, and he reckoned he had a decent reputation as a smart coach. I wandered into training one night, and enjoyed the run. A lot of the players made a real effort to introduce themselves and make me feel welcome, it was a great first impression. I guess Simon Remington has to be given all the credit for recruiting me!
What were your initial impressions of the club and what were the main similarities with your home club?
The first impressions were mainly around what an effort everybody made to make any new blokes feel welcome, and how seriously everybody took their footy. Back home and then at West Brunswick, training was a bit drawn out at times with a bit of mucking around and wasting time between drills. Muzz and his assistants always seemed very organized, with almost no down time at training, and with so many skillful players, the ball never seemed to hit the ground.
The similarities with previous clubs was the country atmosphere, the club stalwarts that had been around for many years, and the social side such as Thursday night meals and weekend functions.
Tell us about playing under Kieran Murrihy and what were his greatest strengths as a coach?
He planned things out really well, right from nearly my first contact with the club at the pre-season camp in Lorne, that gave the new players an insight into the history of the club, set out expectations for all areas of the ground, style of play, along with plenty of fitness and other activities to get blokes to know each other better. The expectations set out then were consistent throughout the couple of years I was at Redan, so everybody knew their role.
Muzz also delegated to the line coaches really well. Shane Snibson was incredible for the back line, I learnt so much in the two years working with him. He was able to give me the confidence to play on almost anybody, as well as providing plenty of tools to help, whether it was considering where I wanted to position myself to force an opponent to lead to a less dangerous position, or taking a bigger opponents body a moment before the ball arrived to make it more difficult for him to mark.
Who were some of the players who really stood out during your time with the club?
Watching the first game of 2006 from the stands, Adrian King went back with the flight to take a mark and I reckon I flinched watching it – the full forward should have smashed him but took a short step instead! His courage was amazing, and certainly made me question if I could play seniors.
Derek Micallef wasn’t the most professional player, but his skills were exquisite, he could make the ball do anything.
Julian Field and Jarrod Edwards were both so clean and tough in the clinches, and Brendan Peace and Matt Dwyer would run all day and use the ball really well.
You played alongside Jarrod Edwards during his first two of four Henderson Medals. What was it that made him such a dominant player in the BFL?
He was strong as a bull, brave, and really hunted the footy at the stoppages, winning it more often than not. Without being overly quick, he worked hard to spread from the stoppages, and always wanted the ball in his hands.
You played in defence and had plenty of tough assignments. Who were some of your toughest opponents?
In my third game I played on Porter from Melton, he wasn’t that heavy, but was tall, covered the ground with an easy loping run and had an incredible leap – if he got a run at the ball, you couldn’t stop him.
When we played Lakers I didn’t know much about McMahon, and kept him pretty quiet in the first half. Then the rain started to come down, and I thought I had him covered. Then he put on a real show, beating me in several contests with strong marks in the wet, and some really good finishes too.
I played on Geljon (East Point) a few times, he was a good size, was quick and covered a lot of ground, he worked really hard and presented well, so I always knew I had to work hard on him.
After Redan, I played in the Geelong Football League. Russell Robertson had a couple of years at St Josephs – he was explosive, so fast off the mark and a massive leap. I was able to keep him quiet in one of the matches but he got six the second time. Jake Carmody from Colac was always a great challenge too, he had very sticky hands.
Take us through your first season and at what point did you feel the club was a realistic chance of winning the flag?
My first involvement was at the lightning premiership preseason competition. I did a few good things and reckoned I’d done OK. Muzz was pretty blunt after the game, basically telling me I wouldn’t play seniors unless I opened my mouth! As a naturally quiet person, it was a real challenge and took a while to improve.
The first five games were in the reserves, and I didn’t set the world on fire, but improved with each game, and probably showed I was team oriented.
My first senior game was against Sebastapol, and Redan won comfortably. I reckon I got less than half a game, and played down back where the ball wasn’t, so I was pretty surprised when I got a game the next week. We played Sunbury, and I got a job on one of their tall forwards, and he didn’t do too much damage so I started to feel a part of it.
Next game I snuck into the best in a bad loss against Melton after playing on Porter, and started to believe I was up to the level.
I played seniors for the rest of the year, except the Ballarat game, which I missed for a wedding. I’d been focusing on my own game and roles I was given, so it wasn’t until Muzz asked me if I was sure I wanted to give up my spot in the team, suggesting I might miss being part of something special, that I thought about where the team was going and that we had a chance to win the flag. I missed the game anyway, Budsy stood on some broken glass that weekend, and I got straight back in the team… thanks Marcus!
East Point finished the 2006 on top of the ladder with a 17 and 1 record. The Qualifying Final against East Point went right down to the wire. Steve Nicholson marked just before the siren around 50 metres from goal, take us through what happened from there and how confident were you he would kick truly?
I was confident he would make the distance, and it was the sort of goal that you should kick more often than not, but plenty of blokes wouldn’t in those circumstances. It is a funny feeling when the final siren goes and the result is still up in the air, with nothing anyone but Steve could do about it. I was so happy for him (and us) when the kick went through, giving us the second semi final and the double chance.
After a comfortable 2nd semi-final win over Darley, you faced off once more with East Point. What was your role that day and how did the defence plan to stop Dan Jordan who kicked 148 goals for the season?
The same as the rest of the season, I played on the tall furthest from goal, which for East Point was Geljon. I don’t recall a lot of planning for stopping Jordan, he was an absolute gun and nigh on unstoppable! We trusted Hoggy Lubeek to keep him to a manageable tally, which he did, probably a bit of trying to drop off into his space like Snibbo did (getting crunched and breaking his sternum in one contest), and relying on the midfield to minimise supply and put pressure on to prevent quality supply, which they did.
What do think was the difference between the two sides on the day?
There wasn’t a lot of difference between the teams, and it wasn’t until half way through the last quarter that we really got on top. We overran them in the last quarter, which was helped by Muzz’s rotations, getting everybody a decent spell on the bench on what was a hot day.
We also had a more even team, being able to rely on every player to do their bit, whereas I reckon East Point were very reliant on their top end. It was a reinforcement of the theory that your bottom six players win you the flag.
The following season East Point and Sunbury finished atop the ladder with only two losses apiece. Redan made its way to the Grand Final this time against old rival Sunbury. Take us through your game and which of your two Redan Grand Finals did you feel was your best?
I lined up on the tall playing up the ground for the first half, generally Thomas, with a short stint on Houlihan as well. In the second half I went with Thomas everywhere, and he played deep forward for most of the rest of the game. Sunbury started really well, getting some really clean entries into the fifty and getting goals for their full forward – not much Luke Nunn could do about it.
Luke’s comeback in the second half was unbelievable. He went from being pretty dejected and down in the rooms at half time, to playing probably the best half of footy I’ve seen from a key defender. He took a heap of contested marks, just moving Houlihan out of the way, dominating him. It was a massive turnaround, and a key to us winning the game.
Thomas kicked two goals on me, but I had a good day defensively and was able to get a bit of the ball too. Whilst defensively, I played ok and did my job in 2006, I played far better in the 2007 Grand Final, defending better, and providing something going the other way.
I was incredibly nervous on grand final day in 2006, looking around at the class of team mates and opposition and thinking I wasn’t as good as them and didn’t belong out there. I’d had a good year in 2007, and knew I was good enough to be there, knew I belonged on the ground and knew I could play quality BFL football, so I wasn’t overly nervous, and it showed on the ground.
Do you feel any added pressure trying to win back to back flags or are they all as hard as each other to win?
It might be a bit tougher during the season, especially early on, when every other team wants to measure themselves against you. When it comes to the last game of the year though, you’ve got a team that has been there and done that, and the experience certainly helped me have a more normal preparation for the grand final, and a calmer approach to the game.
How did your two seasons with Redan rank across your entire playing career in terms of your own form and the enjoyment of being part of back to back flags?
Those two years were massive for my development as a footballer, and 2007 would be up there with my best, most consistent year of footy. The tools that Snibbo gave me allowed me to play a couple of good seasons of GFL footy, particularly in 2010.
I was incredibly lucky to turn up at Redan and be a part of the two flags. If nothing else, the reunions are a great excuse to get back to the club and catch up with people, which has been good fun the last two years. I’ve enjoyed my footy at Hawkesdale Macarthur and Newtown & Chillwell, but there will probably never be an opportunity to catch up with all the people I played with there.
Take us through where you played the remainder of your footy and are you still having a kick or involved with a club?
In 2008, I played back at Hawkesdale / Macarthur with my brother and some school mates, where we had a team capable of winning the Grand Final, but we didn’t, very frustrating end to the season!
By then, I’d been training at Newtown & Chilwell in Geelong for two and half years, so thought it was about time to play for them. I’ve been there ever since, playing a few years in the seniors, before slowing down and losing my jump the last few years, playing in the twos, including captaining our reserves premiership in 2016.
This year, I’m filling in for Newtown when the twos are short, and luckily for me, that has been most games!
What are you up to these days and where are you living?
I’ve got two kids now, one nearing three years old, the other nearing three months old. I’m still working for VicRoads, now on the Princes Highway duplication between Winchelsea and Colac, and living in Lara.
What is the best piece of advice you were given as a junior?
A couple of things always stuck in my mind, one being that the way you play footy is a reflection of your character (so you’d better always put in an honest effort, be unselfish etc) and also that you can make a contribution no matter how badly you’re going.
I reckon my worst ever game was probably in U/16s playing against Woorndoo when I was sick and shouldn’t have played, had maybe four touches for the day. We won 2.8 to 2.6, and I was lucky enough to kick our 2 goals in the final couple of minutes… you’ve just got to stay in the contest.
Muzz’s demand to talk and communicate was also valuable, as getting everyone in the right positions is about all I can contribute these days!