Jake Bridges - My Redan Story
What are some of your earliest memories of your football career?
My first game was for Alfredton PS in Grade Four playing in the Five/Six team. My first kick out of the centre was a drop kick and Mr Alexander (Graeme who later had a big influence in my Rebels days) dragged me off.
He said “I told you not to kick drop kicks”. I said, “My grandpa is over there, he has cancer and he's come out of hospital to see me play. He played for Melbourne and he said I could kick them”. Graeme put me straight back on.
Dad kicking the ball with me all the time in Conniston Street Wendouree and later making a footy field next to our block of land where Dad and I would play till the sun went down. Playing one on one really teaches you to run games out because there is no rotation policy!
These backyard games progressed when the Nunn brothers, Aaron (BFL Ops Manager), Mark, Michael and Chris moved in next door. Wow, some of those games went for hours, very competitive with plenty of blues to sort out poor umpiring decisions.
Take us through your time with North Ballarat Juniors and some of the teammates who you would later become Redan Premiership teammates with.
My fondest early memories were growing up playing junior footy at North Ballarat with all my mates. Dad coached for a few years so they were very special. Mum helped run the canteen and the junior dinner dances which were massive.
The friendships we developed will be life long and some of us were fortunate to play in senior premierships at Redan. We were extremely fortunate to play in four or five junior premierships. I grew up with Justin Simpkin; I still call his dad and mum Uncle Ian and Auntie Karen.
We met the Cummins, Cooneys, Gibletts, Barkers, Kings, Purves, Vallances, Lubeeks, Dunns, Hobarts, Turleys and Beatties just to name a few. I came back to Redan in 2006 and played with mates from my VFL days and North Ballarat Juniors.
In his recent interview Ricky Cummins indicated the re-naming of the under 18s side to the Redan Roosters played a big role in convincing your group to join the maroon and gold. What is your recollection of that time from making a decision through to joining the club?
We were a close knit group, and North Ballarat had committed to no BFL Seniors and had just entered in the VFL. I remember going to a meeting, which Peter Wilson facilitated, where he informed us that we would all need to find another club to play at.
Peter and I have a good relationship now but back then I remember feeling alienated and left out. Dad played for Golden Point and suggested we could go there. We all went down stairs just us boys and discussed what we were going to do. Redan was the club we agreed to go to.
You only played a handful of games through your commitments with the Rebels. Take us through your career in the TAC cup and some of your teammates and opponents who were drafted.
I was invited to train at the Rebels in 1997 as a 16 year old. I was having bad tendonitis problems in my knee so I couldn’t train as much. Shane O'Bree was an 18 year old leader who was assigned to help me improve my skills.
I remember jumping on the bus out the front of our house to train in Ararat or Horsham with Marc Greig, Winnis Imbi, Adam Goodes, James Walker, Shannon Watt just to name a few. The Rebels won the flag that year, under Garry Fletcher. I now work with his son Simon at Leading Teams.
In 1998 I won the best first year player at the Rebels and in 1999 was the Vice Captain. In those years I remember playing on Lenny Hayes, Cameron Ling, Jude Bolton, Brady Rawlings, and Heath Scotland, Paul Chapman, Rhyce Shaw, Bill Nicolls and Mark McVeigh.
I played with Darren Jolly, Nathan Lovett Murray, Jeremy Clayton, Drew Petrie and Jeremy Humm. Safe to say our two years at the Rebels weren't successful on the scoreboard but I met some terrific people.
Was there any interest from AFL clubs and what advice would you give to players who miss out being drafted?
I had a few clubs interested but nothing concrete. The best advice would be to ring Isaac Smith and have a chat with him. Some blokes who never play TAC Cup think they don’t have a chance.
Brad Sewell or Sam Mitchell’s stories of perseverance have terrific messages for aspiring AFL Players.
After your time with the Rebels you played VFL with North Ballarat. What were some of the highlights and some of Gerard Fitzgerald’s teachings that had the biggest impact on you?
My first year at North I didn’t enjoy much. Played OK but on and off the bench in the two’s wasn’t much fun. The year after I won the Reserves B&F which was a tremendous honour. After playing all my juniors at North it really meant a lot.
Fitzy was a genuine bloke who cared for the group and was terrific in his one-on-one mentoring of young players. In 2002 Garry Hocking came to the club and he had a big impact on my development. I finished at North on 50 games after a knee reconstruction.
Around this time I also met Kraig Grime and Ray McLean. They both continue to have a profound impact on me personally and professionally.
You played some Senior football with Redan in 2000 and were part of an historic win against Sunbury at the City Oval. What can you remember about that match and the excitement it generated among the club for the future?
I played three games that year. We played Daylesford, Darley and then Sunbury. The year before I remember reading an article in The Age where Sunbury beat Redan by 55 goals. For blokes like Marty Cusack, Andrew Cooney and Brendan O’Brien and later Brett and Dru Quinlan to front up when times were tough speaks volumes for their character.
I played on Dean Lupson (ex-Fitzroy) in the Centre for most of the day, I still remember my dad saying to me at three quarter time, run the p…ck into the ground, but watch your head!
I remember cars driving into the city oval during the third quarter as word must have got out that we were in with a chance to win. For Reidy, Kingy and I we were playing because North had the bye, it was one of the most emotional games of footy I have ever played in.
Take us through your next few seasons prior to re-joining the Lions.
Played a year in the QAFL with Redland Bombers and made the state squad, and then played a year with the Wangaratta Magpies in the Oven and Murrray League. Played with Jason Lappin, Leigh Symons and Jon McCormack (ex-Carlton player) and won the best finals player and Anzac Day Medal
Kieran Murrihy was at the helm in 2006 and East Point were the dominant side during the home and away round finishing 17 and 1. How confident were you heading into the finals that Redan could go all the way?
We knew we had a very competitive group with a great mix of experience and youth. I seem to remember an article in The Courier around the East Point midfield titled … Fab Five. I also seem to remember looking into the eyes of the blokes who played in our midfield that day and thinking we had them covered… and some.
What are your memories of the Grand Final itself and was it your first senior premiership?
Yes first senior premiership, very fortunate to be there, but extremely emotional because my Nan had only just passed away, and my best mate Chris Mathews missed out on his third Grand Final. He got one the year after and that was very fitting.
Injuries then curtailed your chances to be part of the 2007 Grand Final and quite a few matches during your Redan days. Fortunately you were part of Brendan Peace’s 2009 Premiership side; take us through your role that day and which of your two grand finals did you feel was your best?
Loved 2009. My role was high half forward with time through the midfield.
Dealing with my Nan’s passing in 2006 was pretty tough and took the gloss off it a bit. In 2007 I tore the hamstring off the bone on my reconstructed knee requiring more surgery and thought my playing days were over, so to play in the 2009 one was bitter sweet.
Some great characters Leigh Ryall, Paul McMahon, Nath and Damien Horbury, and Isaac Smith. Great memories!
In the last quarter we had the game won and the heavens opened up. That last ten to fifteen minutes was one of the most enjoyable times I can remember playing footy.
I also remember my dad doing some boxing with Damien, Nath and Isaac on the Thursday night before the 2009 Grand Final. Whatever he said must have impacted them because their first quarters were sensational. In fact there were some funny boxing stories over the years but those who know my dad will know once he took the false teeth out.... It was game on!
I missed the 2011 Grand Final due to a shoulder injury that I later required a full reconstruction on. I had a plate in the shoulder for two months and then a very long recovery, this was my end of my career....actually I played one sneaky game for Buninyong with my cousin Adam two years later.
What do you think were Kieran’s and Brendan’s greatest strengths as a coaches?
Both different but together very genuine, and team-first coaches. Brendan sacrificed his attacking game to be our best defensive midfielder, and Kieran…… what can I say about him just a genuine character and bloke who played hard, and partied a bit harder.
Who were the Redan teammates who most impressed you with their playing and leadership qualities and who was your toughest opponent?
At Redan it would be Julian Field, Dru Quinlan, Sam Giblett, Brendan Peace, Marty Cusack, Ryan Knowles, Jezza Edwards, Luke Cooney and Chris Mathews.
I am probably a bit biased because I know Chris very well. But in my experience for a bloke to be dropped for three Grand Finals, remain at the club (still) and get a senior flag shows great character and leadership.
I played on Adrian Fletcher one day down at Williamstown he was a Collingwood coach at the time still playing VFL and Sam Mitchell in 2002 just before he cemented his spot in the Hawthorn side for years to come (photo one). Both very clever players and I learnt a lot about standards on both those occasions.
Top five players I have been fortunate enough to run out with whose playing ability and leadership were infectious.
1- Jon McCormack
2- John Polkinghorne
3- Julian Field
4- Jeremy Clayton
5- Jason Lappin
How would you want to be remembered as a player and bloke?
Hard / Strong
Got the most out of my ability
You are now part of the well renowned Leading Teams organisation. Tell us about the work you are doing and some of the AFL Clubs and corporate sector clients you have worked with.
Leading Teams is a terrific organisation to be involved with. We're well known for our work with footy clubs but over 80% of our work is in the corporate world. We work right accross Australia and I am excited about working with my current clients and what we as a team are all working towards.
What is the biggest misconception about the role your organisation plays in AFL clubs?
Our model is centred around developing a behavioural framework, building strong professional relationships and teaching teams and individuals to have genuine conversations.
But there can be misconceptions around what a genuine conversation looks like. Genuine doesn't have to mean negative or critical. Our performance involvement program is essentially about improving the dynamics within a team environment to allow that team to succeed.
‘Resilience’ is a word often mentioned by AFL players and coaches in press conferences and its development a major focus of your work. What does this term mean to you and how difficult is it to develop?
That is an interesting one. Resilience for me is an attitudinal trait. We are all human, we all make decisions and have experiences that work out and some that don’t. Building resilience in a team or organisation comes from it being earned.
The Redan story of being almost down and out, getting beaten every week by 40 goals to winning premierships is a great story about organisational resilience.
I hope that the current players understand this and acknowledge the culture that was built over many years of hardship and continue to build the Redan story.
What is your view on former captains remaining on in a playing capacity to assist the new skipper?
As long as they support the new skipper and behave in a way the club wants then it is great.
What else are you up to these days and are you still involved at club level? (updated FEB 2017)
I am married to Kylie and have two beautiful girls Luka and Gracie. I still play in a band with Chris Mathews and Josh Hawkes which I love. I have been co–coach at the Buninyong FC in the CHFL and am now coaching East Point which I really enjoy.
What is the best piece of advice you were given as a junior?
Nan said if you can't be a footballer at least look like one!! She didn’t like my long hair…
Dad’s favourite was ‘Don’t let the opposition know that you are hurt’.