Matt Jones - My Redan Story
Tell us about some of your junior footy memories and the highlights.
The best experience I had was U18s with Ballarat F.C. Alan North was a great coach and communicator with young men. A mentor and father figure to many. Ahead of his time in many ways in that he was able to engender ‘buy in’ from the group and asked for our feedback and opinions on many matters.
He was a coach who made a difference not only in a playing sense, but in the lives of a great deal of young men from primarily around the Wendouree area in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Where did you play footy prior to coming to Redan and did that include any coaching roles?
Before Redan, I was at Wendouree in the CHFL and before that Ballarat. The main coaching roles that I had previously, had been through school sport in my role as a Physical Education Teacher in a variety of sports but mostly cricket and football.
This was preceded by coaching roles, once again through a variety of sports as a part of my Physical Education degree. Teaching and coaching had provided me with a basis of experiences to start my coaching journey.
How did you make your way to Redan and what were your first impressions of the club?
I had spent a year off football in 1995 recovering from a shoulder injury and dabbling in athletics. I came to Redan in 1996 as some mates my uni days were playing there. These included my good mate Bobby O’Brien who I was sharing a house with at the time.
The club was struggling at that time but there was a rich and proud history that I had respected from afar and was impressed by the group that had stayed to dig in and keep fighting for the club.
You were appointed Senior Coach in 1997 when the club was in the midst of a losing streak which would last until 1999. What were some of the biggest challenges you faced and how did you keep the side motivated following regular heavy defeats?
The biggest challenges were keeping people engaged and motivated even after suffering some heavy defeats. The main focus was to remain positive and to highlight the development and improvement that was occurring for many of the players who were either great athletes but new to the game or very young players just out of juniors or in some cases still playing junior football.
These were supported by a group who realised that we were up against it but were all putting in a great effort to keep improving and make the most of the opportunity to represent the Redan Football Club.
Were you involved in recruiting and how many players would have knocked you back over that summer?
I was heavily involved in recruiting over that summer. I received many knockbacks. As the club had no money at the time and was operating with no finances.
The only attraction that I could offer to players was the chance to play senior football and challenge themselves at a level that they either may not have had the chance to do so before or were new to the game.
You were renowned for using a variety of techniques to inspire the group before games. Can you share with us some examples and have you continued with some of them to this day?
I guess this comes from recognising that not everyone responds to the one way of having a message delivered or receiving feedback. People can switch off very quickly if the same message keeps getting presented in the same way, week after week.
Whilst the way this is done has changed over the years, the same principles apply in that people prefer dialogue that speaks to them directly about what they do well and what they need to and are capable of doing more.
In this day and age, there is much less talk and much more reliance on visual messaging which is a lot more accessible and widespread that what it was back in 1997. Back then it would be interesting articles or newspaper clippings from a variety of sports that the playing group could make a connection to.
Now YouTube is an absolute treasure trove of this kind of material and you can easily make highlight clips of your own team’s games to achieve the same effect.
It was not uncommon to have less than ten players on the track during school holidays due to the large number of UNI students. Can you tell us about a particular training session in the heart of Ballarat on one such occasion?
It was cold, wet and windy. There were low numbers at training. However, it was important that those who had come to training still got something out of it. From memory there may have been an issue with this lights as well.
We ran down to the Bridge Mall and had a touch session on firm footing and under lights. Change of venue, change of implementation but a training session none the less, where the players got something out of it and possibly still remember it.
Were you able to take any positives out of that season and what are your best memories of it?
Absolutely. When I reflect back, it was a part of the recovery of a proud club that at the time was in dire straits. The fact that we were still able to field two teams each week under insurmountable odds is something that I reflect on with pride.
It was also a great learning experience for me as a coach and a teacher as well. At the time I was coaching players who were older than me. I also fondly remember the sense of camaraderie that existed between the playing group which was forged through some pretty tough times. Some of the social gatherings that resulted added to this sense of togetherness.
Tell us about Jay Dineen who was a much respected player and took out the Dalton Bayly medal that season.
Jay was a fantastic player who gave his absolute best each week. He was a player that could be relied upon to lead by example and also brought other players into the game with his abilities.
He was good enough to play for any team that he chose to, but the fact that he remained with Redan and produced his best week after week said a great deal about his character.
Who were some of the other players who impressed you and characters who helped keep the side together?
There were many and I would be leaving many out in such a short section but names that come to mind during that time for many different reasons are: Bob O’Brien and Jay Dineen for their tireless and courageous play week after week. The way they brought others into the game was first class.
Adam Pease, Ian Morelli, Ross Bramley, Andrew Tegelove, Jeff Rienets, Brian Lovison, Marty Cusack, Simon Remington, Anthony Freeman, Peter Clothier and of course our Canadian import Jeff Weddig.
As I stated previously, everyone who was involved at the club at the time, be it in a playing role, and administrative role or support role, played a part in keeping the club together.
What was the main lesson you took out of your time coaching at Redan?
The main lesson that I took from my time coaching Redan is that every individual on the playing list needs to feel valued as a person and as a player and that they are developing both personally as a result of their experience and as a player.
We had many players that had limited experience but hopefully they gained something as a result be that through the friendships and connections that they developed or that their playing careers were given a boost by playing senior football earlier than what they may have imagined.
Have you seen any of the Premierships the club has since won and what was that experience like?
Unfortunately I haven’t seen any of the premierships as after 1997, I moved away from the area with my teaching career which has seen me take on a circuitous route. I have watched on from afar with interest and I always read the BFL results on a Sunday morning as well as log onto “The Courier” website to catch up on local news.
It pleased me greatly to see the club do so well, knowing what the club went through beforehand. It is a great lesson in organisation, planning and persistence.
How much of an advantage has your teaching background been for your coaching career?
It’s been an advantage in that a great deal of what I do in my day job, crosses over into coaching and vice versa. Communication, dealing with people, designing sequential plans and basically focussing on the development of the person firstly and then the development of the player.
If there are certain activities that I may want to do at training I can utilise these at school and see how they go. I also utilise methods of communicating be it verbally, visually or through activities that I use at school and into the football environment.
On the flip side I also work in reverse in that I may see a variation at training on some particular activity and then utilise this in my Physical Education classes at school.
Tell us about sequential training any how it originated.
Sequential training can mean a lot of things to a lot of people. It is basically a road map to where you want to be as a club. Start with the end in mind and then work backwards as to what steps are required in order to achieve this.
Obviously this will look different for many different clubs based on what their overall philosophy and vison is but the concept is the same. It really is a periodised vison of the steps you want to take along the season or seasons and how this will be achieved and measured.
It comes from much of the work that has been done previously in the fields of education and coaching as they have evolved over the years as disciplines.
Currently you are the Director of Coaching with the Dandenong Stingrays after an initial stint as an Assistant Coach. What has this experience taught you and do you have any AFL aspirations?
My role this year is to support the coaches with the delivery of the football program. I oversee the training plan and implement it with the support of the coaches. I work closely with the Senior Coach who directs the themes for training and I work with him to see this come to fruition.
I also work with the coaches closely in regards to their own performance and development. This can be through such things as videoing them addressing the players, pre-game and at quarter breaks and then reviewing this with them post game, looking at what they did well and areas for improvement and how they can achieve this improvement, much like the players themselves.
Added to this we also occasionally record the coaches box on game day and also review this in regards to our levels of communication. Through this process, I am also able to reflect on my own coaching and teaching performance. I would recommend this to any coaching group as a development process. You get to see how the players would see you.
As for AFL aspirations, I would jump at the opportunity if it arose. In the TAC cup system, we are always developing players for the highest level that they can achieve be it AFL, VFL or the best level that they can play locally and this is the same for coaches.
Who are some of the players that have been drafted while you have been with the Stingrays?
Billy Hartung (Hawthorn), James Harmes (Melbourne), Zak Jones (Sydney), Jack Lonie (St. Kilda), Bailey Dale (Western Bulldogs), Mitch White (Melbourne), Tom Lamb (West Coast), Jacob Weitering (Carlton), Kieran Collins (Western Bulldogs), Bailey Rice (St. Kilda), Brandon White (St. Kilda), Kurt Mutimer (West Coast), Liam Hullet (Melbourne), Gach Nyuon (Essendon).
What are TAC cup sides looking for when they select their squads, is it completely talent driven?
There are a number of things that most sides consider. Talent is an obvious one but more importantly scope for future development. What could the player develop into with focused training and development sessions? What attributes do they possess and how could these translate to playing at a higher level?
It seems most draftees out of the TAC cup require work on the defensive side of their game. Explain the logic of why is there less emphasis placed on defensive skills and tagging at TAC cup level. Is it counterproductive with such a large emphasis placed on defensive actions and structures in the modern game?
There is a big emphasis placed on defensive skills and structures at TAC Cup level, especially in regards to defensive transition. The ability of the player to recognise that the ball is about to, or has been turned over and react quickly to it and set up in a defensive pattern or work hard to directly cause a turnover and win the ball back.
Tagging is not encouraged as it is important to see all of the players play to the best of their ability. This is not to say that defence is an afterthought but more giving all players a chance to showcase their abilities and to also demonstrate their capabilities in one on one contests.
There are many schools of thought regarding this, but time frames are a big factor at play when we consider that many of our players are involved in many different aspects of their lives (club, TAC Cup, Representative, school etc.).
The advancement of coaching and training techniques have seen exponential improvement in skill level, strength and conditioning and decision making. As we recently discussed with Matthew Walsh goal kicking has not followed suit, do you agree crowd noise could be an issue or do you have another theory?
That’s one possibility. Add to the mix fatigue and possibly the biggest impact, perceived pressure. This shows up in a range of sports where players falter when it comes to competitive pressure. Nothing can really replicate the pressure that may be real or imagined in a game situation. This may explain why players miss the most innocuous shots at goal.
Helping players out of form slumps and rebuilding confidence also seems to be an unconquered frontier. Will it always be this way or do you think clubs and sport psychologists can make some major advancements?
Yes, that is one area that will continue to progress. The main reason we coach is to see our players develop as people foremost. This can sometimes be forgotten in the emotion of a football season.
Coaching is about forming and developing relationships with people. It is always something that coaches need to keep working on and psychologists can help in this area.
Hawthorn premiership player and former Redanie Isaac Smith recently commented on our site that lifting the draft age would be a good idea. What is your view on the current draft age?
There is probably some merit in the suggestion in that some players are not ready to play AFL football until they are in their early twenties. Added to this for many players, the draft coincides with their final year of schooling, turning 18 and other significant life milestones.
Having said all of that some players are ready to go when they are 18. Jacob Weitering is one player who seems to have made the transition extremely well. Most AFL clubs now do their homework on players and have set up some excellent development programs for their new draftees who may still be some time off playing.
Added to this many AFL clubs look closely at players in the VFL and other state leagues to see the players who may be late developers and how they progress through their late teens and into their early 20s. If a player doesn’t get drafted at 18, there are still options available to progress to the top level.
Quite a few of the interviews for this site are featuring coaches with a teaching background. What do you make of former teacher Brendon Bolton’s rise to AFL Senior Coach without having played AFL? 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?
I regard teaching and coaching as one and the same. I have watched on with great interest as recognition of this within coaching has evolved. I have really enjoyed tracking Brendan Bolton’s career and he has started really well with Carlton.
His coaching apprenticeship is a really great model as to how coaches should progress. He has coached at all levels and has coached his own team previously. As a result, he intimately knows the processes involved in coaching. Coaching is teaching.
Great coaches are great teachers. Having a teaching background is advantageous in this process as you are practicing it every day. Some of the best coaches in a range of sports around the world haven’t had a teaching background but they are great teachers nonetheless.
Having not played AFL should not be seen as an impediment to coaching at that level. Professional experience in a wide variety of industries where you are dealing with, communicating to and importantly facilitating the development of people would add a great deal to the professional and personal development of prospective AFL coaches.
What advice do you have for the junior footballers and netballers starting their careers at Redan?
How can you look to improve with each training session? What are your goals for each session? Have a goal to work on at training and even tell these to your coach beforehand. Having a set goal before training will enable you to get much more out of it and develop your game at a greater rate.
P.S I note from Adam Pease’s interview that he spoke about the team singing “Father and Son” before running out to play against Melton South. That is also one of my enduring memories as well. Added to this the good folk of Daylesford were also taken aback by the classic 90’s dance hits booming from the change rooms pre-game. I am not sure this was the norm in Daylesford back then.