Mark Verberne - My Redan Story
What are some of your earliest footy memories and junior career highlights with North Ballarat?
My junior highlights were going to almost all senior games and watching the likes of Brett Quinlan, Grant and Trav Polkinghorne, Colin Hunt, Mick Troon, Shaun and Danny Holloway, (Damian) Piggy Linton, Kieran Murrihy, Alfie Faulkner and Jason Berry win game after game.
Living just around the corner I would spend almost all Saturday at the ground. On a playing side it was the winning of premierships and playing with mates which were the obvious highlights.
You finished your junior career in 1996 the same year the club chose to leave the BFL. What did you make of that decision at the time?
At the time I felt the decision was probably a poor one for the vast majority of players at the club. A lot of players were left searching for another club and had it not been for a number of dedicated people at North, the club would not have got back to where it is now in the BFL.
For me the decision worked out reasonably well, as it gave me the opportunity to play VFL football, which is something I probably would not have done otherwise.
You trained with the VFL side and managed to play three seasons under Gerard Fitzgerald. What did you learn from Fitzy and what were some of your highlights playing at this level?
Learnt a lot from Fitzy both on and off the field. He was extremely good at creating relationships with players and making people feel welcome. His coaching style back then was quite fresh and new, very stat and process driven but his ability to connect was his major strength and still is.
Playing in two Reserves premierships and also playing 20 odd senior games were the highlights, with my first ever game under lights playing alongside Essendon Premiership player Paul Hills.
Who were some of your toughest opponents and which teammates most impressed you with their ability and professionalism?
Can’t remember if I actually played on these blokes or was in the game they played in but Jack Aziz and Danny Sexton were two stars of the VFL that I could remember. Pretty sure Hoggas (Damian Lubeek) had the job on both of these and by memory did very well.
I did play on David Rhys-Jones in a reserves game and yes he hadn’t changed (4-5 cheap shots for the game) but he give me some tips along the way.
Teammate wise the three Polkinghornes were all different players and personalities but all three had a great work ethic and led by example. Julian Field, Darren Cuthbertson, Greg Cox and Shaun Moloney along with plenty more were blokes who impressed me with their ability.
Take us through how your move to Redan came about and what was your first impression of the club and it’s playing list?
I was actually signed to be an assistant down who Mortlake in the Hampden League where I had played a couple games on permit the year before. I needed a place to train and Quina had invited me to do so at Redan.
The travel was starting to get to me early February and after a praccy one Thursday against Springbank Quinna asked me if I was keen to chat to the board again about playing. The five year plan and the possible fairy tale was what won me over.
The side under new coach Brett Quinlan registered five wins in season 2000 and lost a further seven games by 15 points or less. Could you see a premiership within two years at the end of that season?
At that stage I probably didn’t think two years. We were still very young and we were still a fair way off the top sides.
You played a pivotal role out at Federation University with regards to recruiting players. In his recent interview, 1997 Senior Coach Matt Jones described how hard he found this task. Can you tell us about what this involved and some of the players you helped attract to Redan?
Realistically it didn’t involve much more than heading out to Uni and setting up a table during O week and then doing some follow up. We were probably the first club to do it and you always knew that if you could get 2-3 one year then the next year they would bring a few mates.
Can’t remember if it attracted many players but I do know that my common line was around the fact our coach owned and managed pubs and clubs within Ballarat and there were some perks that went with that.
Tell us about playing under Brett Quinlan, what made him so successful and which players in particular did you feel helped drive the standards that were needed to become a premiership contender?
Brett’s people skills were something that really stood out to me. It didn’t matter who you were or what you played he always had time for you. This included players, netballers, committee people and supporters.
His football knowledge, opposition analyse and ability to get 22 blokes playing together were also sensational. His support staff in Mick Ryan, Rossy, Piggy, Jacko were also fantastic and dedicated.
When I first got to the club the standards were not as poor as most would expect. Even though the club had been through a lot of tough times, blokes like Dave Olgivie, Simon Remington and Marty Cusack had made sure the standards at training were maintained.
Throughout the four years at the club, the standards of the whole playing group was extremely good. Sammy Ellis, Ricky Cummins, Aaron Freeland, Justin Power and Gareth Hose were blokes who stood out in terms of making sure they were super fit.
Season 2001 saw the side miss the finals but the following season found itself third at the conclusion of the home and away season with twelve wins. Was there a particular win in 2002 that convinced you the side could go all the way?
I would have to say a mid-season win down at Darley when Mark Kennedy got abused all game and even hit by supporters over the fence and Luke Cooney flew the flag and ran 100 metres to hit Darley’s thug Full Forward Barnesy.
Probably another powerful moment was when Quina ran from the coaches box to protect Sammy Ellis when leaving the ground from numerous Melton Supporters who wanted to kill him after knocking Matt Drain into next week.
Following an earlier Second Semi-final loss, Redan found itself again matched up against top of the table Sunbury in the Grand Final. What was your role that day and what are some of your memories of the match itself?
I was matched up on Sunbury’s Centre Half Forward Owen Weatherly who had kicked a lot of goals during the season and was pretty strong and good overhead.
My first memory was Weatherly taking a hanger about five minutes into the game and me being 40 metres away thinking the ball was going the other way. I was told pretty clearly by Sharpy that if it happened again just run to the bench.
Luke Cooney’s tackle on Mark Power, Chippy Barkers Pikaboo and Mark Kennedy’s game were also some of the memories.
What can you recall of the first few moments after the siren, the celebrations that night and how long they lasted into the following week?
The moments after the siren for me was probably more about the supporters and players that had gave us the opportunity to play in such a fairy tale win. The respect I have for these people is enormous and most are still around the club.
Flogga, Freddy, Teddy, Raj, Beau, Pymy, Ray Kappe, Kenny Nunn, Robert Sarah, Bobby, Johnny Lawless, Warwick Remington, Jeff Lewis, Ian Gainey, Tony Quiney and Bernie Massey were names that worked hard through the tough times. Marty Cusack, Gary Hickey, Dave Olgivie, Simon Remington, Brad Paatsch, Bobby O’Brien, Robert Hogan and Justin Catley were all blokes who had seen through the tough times (apologies to those who I missed).
The celebrations were obviously huge at the Western Oval that Night, Bunch a Grapes the next day and then a trip down to the legends game on the Tuesday. Pretty sure Wednesday was a rest day and then we restarted Thursday through to Sunday.
Apart from the Premiership, what were some of your other highlights during your time with the club?
Coaching the Under 18’s and being involved in helping with the house and other club events were things that I enjoyed doing, as it was giving a little bit back to those who did so much around the club.
The amount of work put into that house by the people mentioned above and more was unbelievable. Also seeing the development of players like Justin Rumble, Luke Nunn, Chris Matthews, Ash Barker, Luke Cooney, Sammy Giblett, Adrian King, Ryan Head, Ricky Cummins, Justin Simpkin, Julian Vallance and Ryan Knowles (probably missed some).
All great kids who were extremely important to the make-up not only of our side but the culture at the time. Really showed the importance of having good juniors.
You played all of your junior football alongside Dru Quinlan, played VFL Football together and become Premiership teammates at Redan. He was renowned as a highly skilled, inspiring leader who had the ability to turn a match. Share with us some of your favourite Quinna exploits on the field and shed some light into his unique sense of humour.
Unfortunately for Dru I also played junior cricket and golf with him. On the field Dru reminds me a lot of current day Patrick Cripps. Extremely strong through the hips and had the ability to shake tackles at will and glide away from opponents.
Still remember the 2003 2nd Semi at Melton where he turned the game and put us straight through to the final. Off field he had a great ability like Brett to relate to people and he based his comedy around the group he had around and he never used his comedy to put people down.
While your Redan days did not coincide, you also came up through the junior ranks with Jarrod Edwards. What made him such a dominant force in the BFL for over a decade?
Jezza was a dominant force as he worked extremely hard throughout his career to keep extremely fit and improve his skills.
His strength around the packs was unbelievable and had great pace away from them. He was actually in the age group below me but from an early age he pushed himself forward to play above his age.
Who was your toughest BFL opponent and which of your teammates did you feel played their best football during those four seasons?
Even though I’m only six foot, I actually found the more six foot mobile forwards like Keenan Reynolds, Karl Drever and Cameron Landry and at training Jayden Reid harder to play on than the bigger slower forwards such as Owen Weatherly and Grant Wright.
Gee I could name a lot of players but Haldane Nelson, Justin Power and Chris Beattie were very consistent players who went under the radar and were important cogs to our teams.
You then moved to Melbourne for a Teaching position and spent time with Powerhouse in the VAFA followed by Altona as an Assistant Coach alongside your premiership teammate Aaron Freeland. How did the standard compare with your time in the BFL and did we see the best of your playing career during 2000-2003?
Powerhouse was a few levels below and was a very laid back club to be around. Like all the clubs I’ve been at, I really enjoyed it.
I had a great time with Freezer at Altona despite not much success. The standard was maybe a tad below the BFL. My best footy was probably pre ankle injury in 2001. From 2003 onwards I would start seasons well but then develop soft tissue injuries as year went on.
Season 2003 for you was marred by injury but teammates Gareth Hose and Rick Cummins won their first senior flags with the club after missing the 2002 Premiership due to injury. Take us through how the season unfolded for you personally and your memories of the Grand Final against Sunbury.
The season started well but probably the travel from Melbourne and the previous ankle injury caused issues with my hammies and calves. I returned in the last round but the reserves didn't make finals so I was never really a chance. The development of a few players probably would of had me out of the 22 anyway. My memory of the Grand Final was the lack of discipline from the Sunbury leaders.
I had no real regrets as I’ve always felt that the first flag was enough and is was great to see blokes like Hosey and Rick win one with their injuries the year before.
Upon moving back to Ballarat, you’ve had roles with Waubra and currently Ballarat. What have you enjoyed most about your off field involvement and is a Senior coaching role something you aspire to?
Have really enjoyed giving back to local football and getting the kids involved. Waubra was a great club and really enjoyed working under Shane Skontra and coaching a premiership in the twos.
Once again like all clubs have great people who work hard. I actually didn’t like Ballarat when at Redan but living around the corner, kids attending St Thomas More, doing AUSKICK there and having a number of good friends at the club, I decided to help out this year and have really enjoyed it.
The organisational role of Football Manager suits me a lot more. Unless things really change, a Senior coaching role does not inspire me at all.
I was a senior bench coach at Waubra for a year and I must say I didn’t enjoy it at all. I would possibly see myself being involved in committees and junior coaching over the next ten years.
What do you make of the current day side?
Even though it took you a while to shake us (Ballarat) the other week, I think the game style you have will trouble a number of sides. It’s probably the most even it has been for years and I’m hoping you guys can get up (unless our young blokes develop rapidly and very soon).
Many of these interviews feature coaches with a teaching background. Alistair Clarkson and more recently Brendon Bolton are two examples of teachers making it as AFL Coaches. Is the AFL missing out on something due to most coaches being past players (and full time professionals) with no time for a second career such as teaching?
Yeah, teaching is very much about communication like football and being a teacher does help as you are constantly dealing with all different people. Being a good player doesn’t make you a good coach and that’s where the clubs get it wrong sometimes.
Aside from your involvement in football, what else are you up to these days?
Apart from working at Ballarat High which the club has some great kids playing both seniors, reserves and Under 18’s at the moment, I spend most my time at kid's sport. I do get out on the bike three to four times a week as well.
What advice do you have for the junior boys and girls starting their football and netball careers at Redan?
Enjoy your sport and make sure you appreciate the amount of time your coaches and people around the club put in. Redan is a great club which has great success and has a terrific culture.