BRISBANE Lions development coach Paul Henriksen is well-placed to understand the challenges their interstate recruits face.
The former Vic Country under 18 coach moved north late last year for an opportunity to work in an AFL environment.
Henriksen left a secure job at Terang College in a bid to jump out of his comfort zone.
The decision paid off – he is enjoying helping the youth-laden Lions build their back line and is working closely with the next generation at NEAFL level.
Brisbane won the NEAFL premiership on Saturday night, beating Sydney at the SCG.
“That’s the mindset that we’re trying to create – getting out of your comfort zone, growing, having a go, getting involved and buying in,” Henriksen said.
“Moving away from family and friends, that’s the hardest thing early on, but they’re only a phone call away. Little things you take for granted. I know if I went back into teaching tomorrow, I’d probably do things differently.”
Henriksen, who also runs a specialist handball program with the Lions’ entire senior list, said Brisbane was thriving under coach Chris Fagan’s leadership.
“The place is probably full of positivity and optimism going into next year,” he said.
“The players feel empowered and they feel like they have some ownership around the place and they feel like they can have those open, honest conversations with coaches and within themselves with their feedback.
“We love the word ‘instinct’ up here. We want those players to come and grow.
“It’s OK to make errors, because in the end you’ll grow from that and become a better player.”
Brisbane – a club with strong connections to south-west Victoria – has three Hampden league players on its list.
Terang Mortlake’s Lewis Taylor, South Warrnambool’s Hugh McCluggage and Camperdown’s Cedric Cox are all identified as keys to the Lions’ future success.
Henriksen said 2014 AFL rising star winner Taylor elevated his game in 2017.
“He is a player who just went from strength to strength and really responded to Fags and the senior coaching group and teammates around him,” he said.
“Right from the start of pre-season, he just came with an attitude of raring to go.”
Number three draft pick McCluggage (18 games) and Cox (eight) showed promise in their debut seasons.
“His cleverness and smartness at times (meant) he was on the ball, in terms of starting in the centre bounce, and move forward to kick a goal or two,” Henriksen said of McCluggage.
“That’s one of the exciting things about Hugh, that and he has that amount of physical growth still left in him.
“When you talk to Coxy now about footy, and he was first to admit there was a lot of stuff he was very green about. He didn’t know about things like structures.
“He now feels very comfortable in terms of what he’s doing with that now.”