Fitzroy Football Club: Great football, Great community, Great culture.

Gold Thirds Season Review


By Thirds Gold coach Cameron Ball

If 2020 gave us nothing more, at the very least it gave us time to reflect. For many, the 2021 preseason was a new beginning. A fresh start. A cherished opportunity to pull on the boots, say g'day to some old and new faces, and bask in the rush of kicking the footy around once again.

Around the new year, I came to the realisation that football was something very special to me. Something to help revitalise my sense of self. My memories of my first season at Fitzroy as a player, under the command of Michael Pickering and Bruce Edwards, are some of the fondest of my football journey. The Fitzroy Football Club is a special place. The camaraderie, the support, the history, the good-natured fun and banter. It is something you just have to experience to understand. And it was an experience I longed for again. But I decided my body needed more work to play again, so I thought it best to have a year on the sidelines.

I am a modest kind of guy—most of the time, so I thought a year on the stats board or running some messages would be a nice re-entry. I’d heard good things about Mahns and wanted to get close enough to learn from him. So, I flicked the Pres a message and Joan organised for me to meet with Pickers. To sum up how exited I was, I turned up a day early to the meeting—keen as!

Pickers wasn’t sure whether the numbers rolling in would be young or mature age, but he knew there would be enough for a 7th Senior team. So, he floated the idea that I apply for a head coaching position. I was a bit shocked really. My post-2020 imagination couldn’t quite fathom what a head coaching position would entail. But it didn’t take long for support to come in spades. The willingness of the coaching staff to lend me a hand or an ear throughout the year was encouraging and allowed me to ease into the new role with peace of mind.

The original plan was to field an Under 23s side, however taking stock of the players flooding in during the January and February period saw more players over the age cut-off. In the end the decision was made for us. The Under 23s players would merge with others to create an open age team with a focus on development. To put it simply, the reserves of the Reserves. To develop young players and support those coming back from injury or time away. So the Gold Thirds were born.

The pre-season game against Hawthorn AFC gave the players an opportunity to find their feet and show us what they could do. We played well and came to the realisation that we were probably better suited to a Division 2 Thirds comp, rather than Division 3. This was an important decision. We wanted the boys to have enough of a challenge to develop, but not get thumped each week.

The draw for the start of the season couldn’t have been scripted better for us. We won the first seven games of the season. Amongst those wins we saw our mighty Golds grind out two all-time great wins against the 2nd and 3rd tipped favourites in Williamstown and Old Melbourne. The atmosphere around our team was starting to buzz. On game days we had volunteers aplenty. From players who had missed out or were injured, to girlfriends and family members coming down to help out and cheer on the boys. It was the kind of thing a first year coach can only hope for, but it was a reality. It was all coming together.

By round eight, we couldn’t have been better prepared for the Golds’ first game on Brunswick Street Oval. But it wasn’t to be. We were all plunged into a lockdown none of us saw coming. It was painfully disappointing, but the team were determined to stay positive and not let this derail our season. We rallied around one another to ensure we stayed focused on our goals. We supported each other with fitness programs and anecdotes. The time off also allowed some players who had suffered injuries early in the season to recover, and by the time we were allowed back on the track we had the greatest numbers since the preseason swell. This gave us extra depth to attack the second half of the season.

After having our second games against Old Melbourne and St Bedes Mentone cancelled, we had our sights set on our round 11 clash with Williamstown to act as a yard stick for finals. What an absolute ripper of an affair. If only the VAFA app had a score snake! The lead changed too many times to count. It was a true four-quarter arm wrestle. A mongrel punt from the Williamstown pocket in the dying seconds of the game somehow sailed through, giving them a 1-point victory. Approaching the huddle to address the boys after their first loss was a humbling moment. The boys were already reflecting on the game in a truly positive way, led by comments from the captains, plotting out the bones of our development leading into finals.

The next few rounds saw our group take their belief and professionalism to the next level. The final round of the home and away season, and the lead into what was supposed to be our first week of finals, was electric. We were organised, determined, and had the self-belief to play an amazing finals series. As disappointing as the news was that the season would end up be inevitably cancelled, there was still some satisfaction in knowing that we never faltered as a group. We continued to grow throughout the season. And if we had been given the chance to play finals, I have no doubt we would have come together and given an effort to remember.

I hope that those who were involved in the Golds’ season had a great experience and are inspired to carry the spirit of the season that could have been into 2022 in whatever capacity they wish to do so.

I would like to thank the volunteers, administrators, and coaching group for the warm welcome, support and guidance they provided to me as a first-year coach. I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to coaching.

To my lovely partner, and my sister, for taking on the challenge of team manager and other tasks I handballed their way. To those who lent a hand on game day. To our sponsors. To my leadership group and the players for helping me steer the ship. Thank you. Without you, this wouldn’t have been such a glorious and memorable birth to the Fitzroy Golds Thirds.

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