Chasing a strong start
How a football team performs overall can often come down to how the playing group starts its season. Just ask Dimboola in Wimmera Football League.
History tells us the Roos played in a ripper season opener against Stawell last year, where they had more shots at goal than their opponents and could have easily won, but ultimately fell short of victory.
Later that year in the season wash-up, Stawell played off in a preliminary final while Dimboola had already long hung up the boots after finishing on the bottom of the ladder.
It was a fact far from lost on new Dimboola coach Al Mckinnon, who, in encouraging the Dimboola faithful to get behind the club, pin-pointed early success as critical in priming his team for a competitive year.
“It can be like the toss of a coin and how it lands, so it is critical to influence that as much as possible,” he said.
“To have any sort of tilt at the finals you can’t afford to be in a position trying to make up ground after early losses.
“I encourage everyone to get behind the club. It’s going to be a good year in Wimmera league and things are going to be really tight, especially in the middle part of the ladder.
“Hopefully we get off to a good start so we can build morale, confidence and momentum.”
Mckinnon is relishing the coaching challenge.
“It’s going really well. We have a big challenge considering where we finished last year. But what better way to test yourself than from bottom up,” he said.
“The playing list is looking as good as it has for a while as far as numbers go.”
Mckinnon is keen to establish a resilient group that can adapt to the many different circumstances that emerge during a year.
“The aim is to maybe scrape into the finals. To do that we need structures in place to arm the players with the right tools to adapt to conditions or opponents,” he said.
“Things don’t always go to plan but if have enough tools in the tool box you can adapt.”
Years as a workhorse in the pivot for the Roos has galvanised Mckinnon’s belief that refining skills as much as fitness is critical in overall team performance.
“Working on skill development and ball movement is pretty much a priority,” he said.
“There is a big emphasis in doing all fitness work with balls.
“I go by the saying that you have to get twice as fit as you want to be if you can’t kick the ball properly. That’s because you end up doing twice as much running to go and get it again.”
Establishing a plan to explore greater opportunities to ‘break the lines’ by using rotations through the middle of the ground is also high on Mckinnon’s agenda.
Fitting in neatly with the strategy is the return of ruckrover Nigel Sibson and Oliver and Elliot Braithwaite.
Mckinnon said his on-field assistant coach Tom Magee, who played little more than a game last year before suffering a season-ending injury, would be like a recruit and would also be involved in mid-field planning.
“We want to get a fresh look through the middle. We probably haven’t had the rotation we’ve needed in the past couple of years,” he said.
“The Braithwaites will provide running capacity and are skilful blokes who can win their own ball.
“Kierin Fraser is back training with us and we’d like to develop Darcy Barber to help us hit the ground running. Jack Woods from Horsham Saints is also training well and we have Dan Gardner coming across from Rupanyup.
“We’re also talking to a couple more players.”
Dimboola’s peak-and-trough story of success has long been an issue and the Roos are working to develop consistency with a focus on fostering a junior academy.
The club is tapping into the services of former Minyip-murtoa coach Jaye Macumber who has taken on a parttime junior-development consultant role.
Mckinnon said as an on-field leader he would also rely on a strong system on the sidelines and would have non-playing assistant Michael Henderson marshalling players from the bench.
The Roos are training on Tuesday and Thursday nights at 6.15pm at the Dimboola reserve with some players involved in Saturday morning sessions.
The club has practice matches planned against Jeparit-rainbow, Kaniva-leeor and Kalkee.
ON THE RISE: Senior coach Al Mckinnon, pictured with the 2013 premiership cup, is looking to build morale, confidence and momentum at the club this year.