The VFL’s longest-serving coach, Gerard FitzGerald, says he is hopeful of landing a job as an AFL assistant coach, admitting he is at the peak of his powers at 58.
FitzGerald was informed by the Roosters board last month his contract won’t be renewed at the end of the season as the club enters a new phase with the end of its AFL alignment with North Melbourne.
His has since employed a manager, Damien Smith, as he attempts to retain a job in football, possibly in a development role.
He has overseen the development of former Rooster, now Hawks premiership player, Isaac Smith, ex-Roo Cam Richardson, and Darren Jolly, Nick Maxwell, Josh Gibson, James Frawley and the Brown brothers, Nathan and Mitch, over a 19-year span.
“I enjoy my coaching now as much as I ever have and I feel I’m still coaching well,” FitzGerald said on Saturday. “I had a very positive review conducted by the board at the end of last year and I was really encouraged by the findings of that review. I’m keen to continue to push on and continue to have a good coaching/leadership role in footy. I’ve got to hope that there are other options.”
He accepts the challenge for the next Roosters coach will be an enormous one. North Ballarat is desperate to remain in the league, but there are many doubters.
“We all knew that. That’s why I thought I could provide that stability and continuity and take the club through this next transition. That’s why I requested an extension,” FitzGerald said. “I think everybody realises it’s going to be a challenging period. I believe country Victoria needs a team that is going to be represented in the VFL and I think the VFL is enhanced by having a country team.”
FitzGerald believes the Roosters are better positioned than the now defunct Bendigo Gold was.
“They were different models though,” he said. “They [Bendigo] tried to create a club up there and really good football people tried very, very hard. We have a high quality footy club at North Ballarat which represents the city of the wider region. The North Ballarat model is a lot better equipped to be able to handle the challenges.
“Therefore you need a distinct model of recruitment. I’ve always thought the best way to recruit players is to sell the city as a high-quality venue, the university and apprenticeships is what we try to do with our boys and then retain our own experience rather than trying to chase the market.”
There is doubt, however, that all three recruits will remain at the club beyond this season.
THE BIG ONE:
Sandringham recruits Clint Jones and Mitch Brown were the keys to the Zebras’ 13-point win over Werribee at Avalon Airport Oval.
Jones racked up 30 disposals, while Brown, who is believed to have attracted interest from AFL clubs Fremantle, Essendon and StKilda, racked up 23 touches and a goal. The Tigers led by three points at the last change. Eric Wallace even kicked the opening goal of the last term for an eight-point lead, before goals to Ahmed Saad and Brodie Murdoch. First-gamer Tom Wilkinson gave the Zebras a 13-point buffer and an eventual match-winner lead.
BEST OF THE REST:
Demons ruckman Mark Jamar and midfielder Jack Grimes were the best in Casey’s 47-point win over the Northern Blues, while Essendon escaped with a 22-point win over North Ballarat.
WE NOW KNOW:
Sandringham deserves a top four spot after a gutsy win at Avalon Airport Oval. Casey is genuinely a finals contender this season.
THEY SAID IT:
“In many ways, he’s [Luke Kiel] typical of the North Ballarat player. He’s a boy from country Victoria, and headed into Ballarat to give his footy a good go and he’s continuing to develop into a very good player and a very good influence on how we play.” (North Ballarat coach Gerard FitzGerald).
MAN OF THE MOMENT:
Tom Wilkinson (Sandringham) – Stood up at the Zebras’ time of need to kick a match-winner.
eelong v Footscray, Simonds Stadium, 11.42am
Richmond v Port Melbourne, Punt Road Oval, 1pm
Coburg v Box Hill Hawks, Piranha Park, 2pm
Frankston v Collingwood, Frankston Oval, 2pm
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