Under the Auld Pump | Footy Matt’s first love

KICKING GOALS: Warrnambool Football Netball Club's new senior coach Matt O'Brien is facing the 2018 season with confidence.
KICKING GOALS: Warrnambool Football Netball Club's new senior coach Matt O'Brien is facing the 2018 season with confidence.

Matt, you were appointed last month as the senior coach at the Warrnambool Football Netball Club for this season. When does the club start training for the 2018 season?

We’re back training on January 24. We’ll train three nights in the week. 

Our main focus for those training sessions will be doing a lot of ball work mixed in with running, contesting, decision-making and skill work.

Starting on the 24th means we’ve got 11 weeks training before the season kicks off.

They will be strenuous training sessions but they should have us in good shape for the start of the season.

We did do a fair bit of pre-season training before the Christmas break.

Were you surprised that you got the job as senior coach?

I’m not sure surprised is the right word as I was kept informed by the club of their process regarding getting a senior coach for this season the whole way through.

I had worked as an assistant for John Cook when he was senior coach last year.

The club asked if I would stay on as an assistant again if they got another coach and I had no problem with that.

They ended up approaching me after they had exhausted their process. I’m honoured to be senior coach at such a great club which has such a proud history.

It’s my job now to try and add more success to the club’s history.

Matt, Warrnambool won six games and finished in seventh spot in 2017. Where can it improve in 2018?

I thought we were a bit unlucky in a few games last season. We, like a lot of other sides, copped a few injuries which don’t help your chances but we’re going into 2018 with confidence.

We played good games against Koroit and Port Fairy last season and they finished up playing in the grand final. I really don’t think there will be much between most of the clubs. I think it will be a very competitive season.

We’ve picked up a couple of new players including Luke Cody who is moving well on the track.

We’ve got some exciting young players who have been in the system for a few years and they show a lot of potential and are ready to take the next step.

Where did you footy career begin?

I started playing in the under-10s when I was seven years old at the Banyule Football Club. It’s a little suburb out near Rosanna.

I played in all the junior grades before playing senior footy. We won the 1986 senior premiership. We defeated Old Trinity to win the flag.

We won by about six goals and when I think back, we had the game won early in the last quarter.

Matt, have many players gone on from the Banyule Football Club to play AFL?

There’s been quiet a few. I suppose the main one would be Peter Caven. He played with Fitzroy before going to the Sydney Swans and finished up with Adelaide where he played in two grand final wins.

Peter was famously knocked out by Tony Lockett in 1994.

Lockett was playing with St Kilda at the time and Peter was with the Swans. Brent Stanton was another player who started his junior career with Banyule before joining Essendon. Mark and Terry Beers who played with Collingwood also played with Banyule.

Which path did your career head down after playing for Banyule?

I was 21 years old when I played for Box Hill in the old VFA competition.

My first coach there was Harold Martin. He was a tough coach. He stood no nonsense. He was a straight-up-the-line coach who had a wealth of experience in football.

Carlton premiership player Peter Francis was my next coach at Box Hill. He was a great bloke and a top coach. I played with Box Hill for four years before joining South Croydon.

I played with them for two years and then went back to Banyule. I was 34 years old when I thought I better hang up my boots.

What year did you and your family move to Warrnambool?

It was in 2000. I went and watched a few games of footy out at the Deakin University Sharks and got involved with the club in 2001. I was still there in 2002 but was not involved with footy in 2003 and 2004, but came back again to the Sharks for 2005 and 2006. 

Our children got involved with junior footy at the Warrnambool Emmanuel Hawks and I joined the committee before having a stint as president of the club. We had a drop-out year in 2011.

What do you mean you had a drop-out year in 2011?

My wife Monica and I took the five kids on a back-packing trip around the world for a year. We both took long service leave and leave without pay to make the trip with the kids. It’s an experience that none of us will ever forget. We visited 23 countries in 50 weeks.

We went to some amazing places in Asia, Europe, India and Turkey and met some incredible people and just had a wonderful time. Our youngest daughter Scarlett was only five years old when we made the trip.

Did you get involved in footy when you came back to Warrnambool?

Our son Paddy was playing footy at Russell’s Creek so I was the runner for 2012, 13 and 14.

Let’s talk about your cricket career. Did that start at Banyule?

Yes. I played junior cricket there and ended up playing in five cricket premierships with Banyule. I gave cricket away to focus on my footy career, but I must admit I did miss the cricket.

How would you describe your cricket ability?

I was an average player. Luckily I was seeing the ball well in one game and made 118 runs and got six wickets in another game, but I always loved being involved with footy.