Port Fairy calls on former AFL player Donald McDonald to help with 2017 finals campaign

STINT AT THE TOP: Ex-North Melbourne footballer Donald McDonald during his time as Hawthorn caretaker coach in 2004. Picture: Sebastian Costanzo
STINT AT THE TOP: Ex-North Melbourne footballer Donald McDonald during his time as Hawthorn caretaker coach in 2004. Picture: Sebastian Costanzo

​Donald McDonald describes his role on the Port Fairy bench as "cutting up the oranges".

But Hampden league grand final-bound Seagulls coach Brett Evans begs to differ.

Evans believes having the ex-AFL footballer and former North Melbourne football director at his disposal is a major coup as the club strives to end a 59-year flag drought.

McDonald, a long-time Port Fairy visitor who plans to retire in the seaside town, has watched the Seagulls' past two finals wins from the bench and will be there on grand final day in a week's time.

“He’s been involved at the highest level, so I am extremely fortunate to have him and when he did say he’d give me a hand it was fantastic because it’s just another good set of eyes,” Evans said.

“It gives me a bit more comfort I guess, knowing he’s behind me and helping.

“In the heat of the moment when you are really looking for some advice, it’s good to be able to call on him.”

McDonald, who had a stint as Hawthorn caretaker coach in 2004, downplayed his role.

But the passionate Port Fairy supporter – he’s been a regular visitor for more than three decades and even played a game for the club – said he was happy to help in any way.

Identifying match-ups is one area he is focusing on.

“I live right across from the ground, so I just have that sort of strong relationship with the club,” McDonald said.

“I am a supporter of them and now we’re into finals I just sit on the bench.

“Brett’s got a really good handle on things.

“Port Fairy is a very small town and we’ve been down the bottom for such a long time and for him to get them into three finals series in a row and now a grand final, I think it’s a great effort.

“I just sit there and probably just cut the oranges. It’s no big role.

“He’s been coaching them all year and they’ve won their way into a grand final without any involvement from me.

“It’s unbelievably exciting to think they’re in a grand final.

“I have been really impressed with the standard. Cobden and Koroit are both good sides so it will be a great preliminary final.”

McDonald, whose son Luke is a regular in North Melbourne’s best 22, boarded at Hamilton’s Monivae College as a teenager.

Connections built there have played a role in his strong ties to the south-west – he rates Port Fairy’s Michael Hearn and Hamilton Kangaroos’ Keven Quinn among his close friends.

Port Fairy is hoping to add to its one and only premiership and awaits the winner of the Koroit-Cobden match-up in the grand final.