Opinion

There’s no definitive answer

by
August 08, 2017

Seymour playing coach Brent Colbert will step down from his role at the end of this season. The Lions have won three games in a row since Colbert's announcement.

Echuca Murray Bombers coach Andrew Briggs will end his four-year coaching tenure after the 2017 season. The Murray Bombers have not been able to find a victory from four starts after Briggs' decision.

Sometimes I can see a Musings column coming from a mile away.

Other times it surprises me and smacks me in the face on the weekend.

This one comes from the former category, and has been building for a number of weeks.

Statistics and trends in sport can be misleading, causing the general public to form opinions and spruik generalisations that are often far from the mark.

An easy example is the handling of a changeover of coach at a football team.

Asking how a team fares the week after it loses a coach will draw different answers from most unbiased onlookers.

While no leaders have been ousted mid-season across our four leagues this year, plenty have made known their intentions to step down at the end of this campaign.

Differing fortunes of their respective sides have ensued, with some teams raising their market value and others struggling to perform under the increased scrutiny.

Let’s take a look at how each of the seven teams have fared since finding out that someone different will be at the helm of their club next year.

●Seymour playing coach Brent Colbert announced his impending resignation before round 14 of the Goulburn Valley League season, and his side has convincingly won its three matches since.

A 90-point thrashing of Tatura, 56-point drubbing of Mooroopna and 80-point hiding of Shepparton United reads well for the Lions, but with all of those opponents struggling this season their form is to be expected.

The real test for Colbert’s men comes after the split-round bye against the currently unstoppable Kyabram.

Colbert has not yet ruled out playing next year.

●Master Deniliquin Rams coach Gary Parsons has accomplished almost everything possible in the Murray Football League, and his decision to step down at the end of the year came after his side secured another accolade.

The Rams had just defeated Mulwala, still the only time a bottom-six side has secured victory over a top-six combatant this year, and were heading into a tough clash with Nathalia.

Parsons’ troops fell just eight points short in that round 12 contest, but went on to win three matches in a row before surrendering an 11-point three-quarter-time lead to fall to Moama on the weekend.

This run of form has seen the Rams rise to equal seventh on the ladder, a remarkable effort after winning just two of their first nine games.

Star player Todd Gallagher was promoted to an assistant coaching role when Parsons announced his retirement.

●Deniliquin Rovers playing coach Nick Braybon used his round 16 post-match address to tell his charges his tenure as coach would not continue after the current campaign.

Fighting to stay in contention for a finals berth, the Rovers then came out and defeated fourth-placed Tocumwal in hostile territory.

Braybon has confirmed he will continue playing at the club next year.

●Shepparton is unique to this group, but has still lost its coach for next season.

Current leader Brad Campbell was never going to coach past the end of this year, but Rob McCartney had already been pencilled in before informing the club last week he would be moving back to Melbourne.

The coaching director will see this year out, with the Bears engineering a comfortable 54-point win over Echuca just days after the news broke.

●The day before taking on then form side of the competition Waaia, Katamatite announced that Jedd Wright would replace coaching duo Tyler Sprunt and Matt Dwyer at the helm next year.

After two wins in 14 games, not many pundits gave the Tigers a chance of winning the clash, but a resounding 35-point triumph followed.

The momentum did not last long though, with Katandra bringing its rival back to earth with a thud just a week later.

●Four wins in a row, including success against Tungamah and Shepparton East, preceded Waaia’s announcement that assistant coach Matt Brown would step up to Mick Cleeland’s main role next year.

Then the Bombers lost to Katamatite.

It seemed typical of a rollercoaster season for the men from way out, and last weekend’s 111-point thrashing of finals-bound Katunga did nothing but confirm Waaia’s status as a Jekyll and Hyde team.

●And so we come to Echuca.

For those following at home, the record of clubs after major coaching announcements so far sits at 10-4.

With half of those sides currently residing in positions which would not garner them a finals berth, one could conclude that the prospect of new leadership spurs a team to greater heights, with positions (and pay packets) on the line.

Not the Murray Bombers though — and I think I can see the reason.

But first let’s assess how bad the situation has been.

Echuca was primed to taste finals football for the first time since 2011 after recording a galvanising nine-point win over Euroa in round 12.

During the following week, coach Andrew Briggs announced that the fourth year of his coaching tenure would be his last.

A tough loss to Benalla then put the Murray Bombers on the back foot, but sixth place was still well within their grasp.

Consecutive losses to bottom sides Mooroopna and the Shepparton Swans crushed that dream, and the Bears ground it into the dirt with 30 minutes of scintillating football on Saturday.

When you add Echuca’s 0-4 record to the tally it sits at 10-8, which still allows a case to be made for improvement from sides facing change at the top.

But what these other teams (except Shepparton — which is in a category of its own as it has known Campbell was leaving since day dot) have in common is some form of stability to hold on to.

Colbert may play on, Braybon will, Gallagher provides an easy succession plan if the club goes down that path and Wright and Brown are already signed.

What Echuca lacked was flotsam to aid it through the storm.

The signing of Simon Buckley for two more seasons came too late to help salvage this campaign, but the almost immediate reaction of Ruory Kirkby, Daniel Willis and Cam Valentine to commit once again means the club will be in good hands, no matter who ends up steering the ship.

This analysis probably leaves you more confused than before as to how teams will react to club-altering news.

The answer is really quite simple — we don’t know.

For me, that is the beauty of sport.

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