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Hardingham Chuffed With Opportunity To Lead Young, Talented Group

Q&A Series - Essendon Doutta Stars Edition

KYLE Hardingham has emerged from his first coaching stint at Pascoe Vale a wiser man.

The former Bomber was due to start his Pascoe Vale journey in 2016 but couldn’t get onto the field until 2017 due to suspension.

In his two years at Landells Road, injuries cruelled the Panthers and on both occasions, they missed the finals.

The club chose to go in a different direction following Season 2018, landing Hardingham in a frantic job market.

Numerous jobs, including a handful in Strathmore Community Bank Premier Division were up for grabs, and Hardingham was chuffed to be able to land the Douttas gig.

The 30-year-old recently caught up with EDFL Media’s Adem Saricaoglu.

AS - What did you like about this particular opportunity when it did arise?

KH - Well firstly, the most appealing thing for me is that they do have talent on their list and it’s a very young list. They’re a list that’s at an age where they are coachable. They’re crying out for someone just to nurture them, basically, so that’s very appealing for me in terms of my coaching and the development side that I love so much. The other side of it is that it’s Premier Division footy and this ground (Nipper Jordan Oval) is probably the best ground to play on, so to be playing there every second week, it could really help us if we get the right game plan in place. We can make it a real fortress for us.

After those couple of years at Pascoe Vale, how have you emerged from that as a coach and what have you gleaned from that experience?

I think the biggest thing was just adapting to the needs and requirements of the local football environment. So that includes the players and what they actually require from the coach in regard to feedback and training and the standards around it. I think that’s the biggest thing I took out of it and just adapting everything I learnt from the AFL and kind of finding that niche and how to develop that with the group. It’s interesting that not everything works here that might work in the AFL because you haven‘t got five days a week to teach it, you’ve got two nights. So it’s just finding that balance and the niche around the actual teaching of everything.

This being your second gig, there’s no doubt you’re going to be better for the experience here, but coming from an AFL environment, it’s such a different setup for players at this level. How much time did it take you to actually adjust?

I still think I am adjusting to it, to be honest. Obviously, the biggest thing is knowing your players and what they’re capable of. In the AFL environment you’ve got everyone there who are the best of the bunch, where with this coaching role you’ve got under 19s, reserves and seniors to deal with, so you’ve got a wider variety of talent plus experience in those groups. It’s about just finding out how best each player responds to being taught and how they want to be taught and their skillsets and working on that. I’m still adjusting to that and going to a new side again, I’ve got to make further adjustments because it’s a whole new list. I know they have got talent but it’s about finding out about the talent there and also working with what they’ve got as well to really bolster things up and get them back up to where they should be.

When you do compare Pascoe Vale to Essendon Doutta Stars, how different are the two situations? Do you coach it the same way you did at Pacco or this is challenge completely different?

To be honest, I probably wouldn’t change the way I’d coach it. The standards I create and my expectations as a coach… they won’t change. The way things will change will be more along the lines of my game plan and how I want my game plan to look for this group. Obviously, you need to tinker your game plan to what you actually have. There’s no point bringing in a game plan that doesn’t suit the cattle that you’ve got, so I’m really going to enjoy tinkering with my own philosophies and the game plan around that to suit this group and like I said, I think they very much under-achieved this year. There were a few different reasons why but they have got a lot of talent on their list and you only have to look at their midfield with (Jordan) Angus and (Jordan) Schroder, you’ve just got to add a few players around them and then all of a sudden it becomes a stronger side already. When it comes to Pascoe Vale, one thing they did have was a massive amount of ex-AFL players and sometimes they’re the harder ones to coach, purely because they’ve been to the highest level and they know more things. They’re coming towards the end of their career and for some, this isn’t the be all and end all.

I think you may have already answered this, but as an opponent, what were your impressions of Douttas these past few seasons?

To be honest, both times we played them this year, they were not the side we thought they were in terms of ladder position, so that’s what’s made me taking this role so exciting. We know they have the makings of becoming a good side. It’s about unleashing them and letting them expose their talent and bringing a game plan that can really bring some positivity to the group. They’re actually not far off from being a good side again, so its just how quickly we can bounce back and how quickly we can change the group.

As we saw from the how they ended the season, there really is a good core of young players here. So as far as list retention is concerned, are you more interested in basically keeping it together and just adding a little bit here and there, or is the side going to have a fairly different look about it next year?

That’s the positive thing. Because they did beat Greenvale in the last game, they got a lot of positivity out of that and a lot of the players are taking that into next season. So our retention’s been really good so far. We’ve re-signed a lot of the key players from last year and the ones that haven’t signed are really keen to sign. They just haven’t been able to get down to the club. The key to any club being successful is taking care of your own and making sure you keep the homegrowns there. Then once you’ve done that, you work out what you need and that’s when your recruiting comes into it. We’ll try and play a bit of a role in the recruiting game this year but we’re not going to go out and look for a heap of players. We know what we want and they’re the players we’ll go out and get.

A couple of years ago, there was a bit of excitement around Douttas that maybe they were ready for a crack at finals and maybe even be a contender, but then some things obviously went wrong. It seems the outside expectations are all over the place from year to year, so this time around should we be patient or should we be excited that maybe you’re not too far away from becoming a finalist, or maybe a contender? What side of that spectrum do you think your club is closer to at the moment?

This year they lost a couple of close games that they could have won, which would have changed a lot. But in terms of where they’re going to be next year, it’s hard to put a finger on it because you know in the EDFL if you get some key recruits and a couple of games go your way, it can turn around all of a sudden and it happens very quickly. I’m not going to put a finger on it and say we’re going to make finals next year, but I definitely do see that we’re going to improve and that we’re going to be amongst it. We’re going to be there to put real pressure on the opposition and we’re not going to be a side you can walk over. My aim is to really keep improving, because I want us to be up there with best alongside Aberfeldie and Keilor and consistently playing finals and develop a way of winning. My biggest challenge is to change the mindset of the club and get them to have that mindset of winning. That’s the key.

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