South Rovers coach to step aside with a heavy heart

RESPECTED mentor Brendan Whelan will end his tenure as South Rovers coach at the end of the Warrnambool and District league season.

Whelan and the Lions have agreed to mutually part ways when the regular season comes to a close in three weeks’ time.

The league’s only non-playing coach told the players of the decision after their win against Timboon Demons last weekend.

He went public this week, admitting he would leave the position with a heavy heart. 

The Standard understands the club is chasing a playing coach.

“There is so much upside to the footy club. Two years of work I’m happy and pleased with and I love being around the place … absolutely it’s a heavy heart,” he said.

“The pleasing thing is the number of kids we’ve played and the other pleasing thing is the position the playing group is in.

“They’re primed for whoever takes over next year to set up and get some success. It’s a young group that has a lot of potential.”

Whelan took over from premiership coach Brett Evans last season and steered the Lions to sixth, three games behind fifth-ranked Allansford.

Off-season departures — arguably five of their best 10 players left for various reasons — triggered a drop down the ladder this season.

Braden Hotker, Matt McMillan, Adam Payne, Jordan Kavanagh, Nathan Krepp and the sidelined Liam Sheppard are among the key contributors.

The quality of talent in the under 17½s, led by Laughlin Cowell and Tom Hirst, also bodes well for the future.

“It’s a really strong foundation. You look at the playing group, the average age would be 22 or 23,” Whelan said.

“They’ve all got a lot of games under their belts. That’s something I was really keen to develop, the young group. They’re a close-knit bunch.”

South Rovers take on Deakin University at Walter Oval today. The Lions made one change, replacing Adam Payne (unavailable) with Hirst.

Whelan said he was pleased with his players’ efforts in beating the Demons. They were superior in the middle two quarters, with clean ball use a factor.

“We seem to be a lot more confident and composed with the ball. It’s definitely improvement the lads have shown from the start of the year to now,” Whelan said.

Deakin University strengthened its side by adding key forward James Crawford, coach Matt Lenehan and onballers Liam Turner and Brent Astle.

Lachlan Hulands was the only major omission. But Lenehan opted against playing up the Sharks’ chances after a lean few weeks.

“We’re coming from a long way back. They beat us by six or seven goals last time we played them,” Lenehan said.

“They played some pretty good footy and we played good footy in patches.”

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