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Senior Men's Coach Luke Mahoney's 2020 Season Review

21-Aug-2020

The momentum that the team finished with last season was clearly rolling as our men’s team gathered for 2020.

The coaches were rapt with the level of commitment and enthusiasm shown during pre-season with high attendance across all teams. With a number of players returning from overseas breaks and a string of new recruits, the senior squad was coming along nicely with plenty falling into the “best pre-season ever” category. A pre-season camp was well attended and the foundations for the team’s rules and some slight changes to our game plan were set.

The sneak peek came in the shape of our traditional intra club game at Vic Park. Plenty of hands were put up for early selection with depth not seeming to be a problem. The group were looking forward to our first practice game against St.Bernard’s at the new whiz bang facilities out at LaTrobe University and then suddenly it all stopped…

The pandemic season kicked in and the approach to the uncertainty around what the football future had in store for us was the new challenge. What I can say is that the men’s squad, and in fact the whole club, certainly gave it their best shot to be ready if we could get back on the park. The resilience and persistence of the group is something that made all of the coaches very proud.

The players bought in very early to our isolation focus of keeping connected, fit and keeping each other laughing. The player’s Facebook page was breaking all sorts of records with the videos posted on anything from poetry reading, playing La Marseillaise via the accordion or the various posts from the boys living at the infamous Ranch share house. The fitness apps were also on fire as players challenged each other to half marathons and chin up contests.

The beauty of a football club is that it provides an unofficial support network for players, coaches, directors, volunteers and supporters. The use of technology made sure that network continued for the players as the Club established a Health and Wellbeing group to provide an avenue for players to access information or additional support while we were apart. A super initiative and something that will be a great asset for our club for a long time.

Fast forward to May and a flicker of hope arrived, we could return to training, starting in groups of 10, extending to 20 and then 2 groups of 20. On the first night back at BSO, the ball zipped around the ground as the players were jumping out of their skin to just get out of the house and kick a footy. There was no drop off in commitment. The players were fit and ready, up to 100 players trained on either a Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday. The hardest parts were coming up with new drills for the smaller groups and scheduling players to each training session! By the end of it, the coaches had developed a complex spreadsheet to make it run like clockwork and then suddenly it all stopped.

While a ball was not kicked in anger or a coach’s clipboard broken, there have been plenty of wins so far in 2020. The resilience and leadership of the playing group went to a new level. Our team values are hard work, hunger, humility and pride. All of those were on display either in person or in the virtual world.

There was no whinging or complaining just a real gratitude for the club doing their best to give players an opportunity to catch up, train and have a release from their own daily grind. This will hold this group in great stead as they look towards 2021.

Thank you to the Board for their support during this period. Every single director shared the load with the role of being COVID-19 officers, doing everything from sanitising footballs to kicking off the joggers that wandered on to BSO. Never once did they say it was all too hard (not to me anyway!).

Thank you to the coaches, who were a great support network for me and helped with ideas to keep the group engaged and sharing the training shifts.

Thank you to the leadership group, you guys were put into a position that hopefully we don’t need to do remotely for much longer! The Olympics, the challenges, the Facebook posts, the energy at training was all a success due to the work you did behind the scenes. Well done to our captain, Jules.

Finally, to my family, Jodie, Lucy, Max and Audrey, thanks again for all your support during this season. A frustrated footy coach is never an easy person to live with, let alone when you don’t have games to coach!

I am sure if you have read this far in my summary, you must miss your football.

We all can’t wait to get out there again, and when we do, we will be a lot more grateful for seeing the young new Fitzroy players burst onto the scene, the hipsters on the hill, the flash of the new scoreboard, the volunteers under the goal umpire hat, the taste of Kerry’s burgers, the song after a well-earned win, the smiling and welcoming faces in the social club.

Stay safe, stay positive, stay connected and go Roys.

Luke Mahoney
Virtual Senior Coach 2020

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