MATTHEW Huy is the new man in charge at Jacana after what was a disappointing 2018 season in Essendon Ford Division 1.
Jacana finished last on the table and didn’t win a game until the final round after gaining promotion into the EDFL’s second tier in 2017.
However, a question mark loomed over the club’s division status, with the Jags looking to stay in Division 1 if the EDFL had decided to expand the second tier to 10 teams for 2019.
Add to that the departure of coach Robert Fletcher and one could argue it has been a dramatic couple of months for the club since season’s end.
Huy was appointed the new coach not knowing what division his side would be playing in, making recruiting somewhat tricky.
Last week the EDFL confirmed Jacana would be relegated back to Strathmore Community Bank Division 2.
Soon after, the club announced the return of 2017 premiership hero, Cameron Cloke, but they’ll enter Season 2019 without star ruckman Billy Morrison and fellow premiership player Jacob Austin, who both transferred to Craigieburn.
EDFL Media’s Adem Saricaoglu recently caught up with the new Jacana coach.
It feels as though you’ve had a lot of moving parts to deal with early on, not initially knowing what division you’d be in and we’ve already seen some key players come in and out of the side, so would you describe your first few weeks in this role as fairly eventful?
Yeah, very eventful so far. I suppose it’s been very up and down and just having that unknown of what division we’d end up in. Having some players like Billy Morrison and Jacob Austin moving on to Craigieburn, it’s not what myself nor the club wanted but with us going down, they wanted to stay up in Division 1. But we’ve made some good ground with other recruits like the signing of Cameron Cloke as a playing assistant and young Kane Murfett. I think we’ve got about six or seven guys that didn’t play with the club last year that have returned, so I'm very excited for what’s ahead for 2019.
Are we talking about some returning premiership players from 2017?
Yes. For whatever reason they didn’t play in 2018, but they’re prepared to come back and want to be a part of the success we’re hopefully going to have.
What kind of environment have you walked into and what is the mood around the place given how poor Season 2018 was?
Yeah look… there’s a lot of unknown. From the players as well as the club. Every player I’ve spoken to is pretty pumped and looking forward to the season. They want to put 2018 behind them and move on and try to get back that winning feeling that they never really had this year.
Are you planning on rolling out a different kind of Jacana outfit next year compared to what we saw two years ago and have you had any thought on what the brand and what the culture is going to be initially?
Off the field we’re going to make this a very family-orientated club, where the guys will bring their partners and young kids. I want to go away from the persona that Jacana once had. On the field, we just want to play a fast brand of footy that’s very exciting, and it’s not going to be one-dimensional around Cameron Cloke. It’s going to take 22 guys in that side to walk away with victories week in, week out.
We know what Cam will bring on the field. But coaching-wise, what kind of role do you see him playing and what do you and he want to get out of his return to the club?
What I want from him is the leadership and the expertise he got from playing at the highest level of footy, that a lot of us never got to play. He can bring some of that to the club, to help out with the training and game plans. As for what Cameron’s wanting, he’s looking beyond his footy career, so that’s why he took on the assistant coaching role. Cam and I are good mates and he wanted to be able to stand beside me and help me and the club hopefully have a successful year, if not more. He’s only signed for the one year but if all goes well, Cameron says he will be sticking around.
Have you twisted his arm about the playing services of his brothers?
No. We haven’t spoken about Travis and haven’t spoken about Jason because as far as I’m aware, Jason’s going to Queensland. I know Trav personally and I know he’s really focusing on his coaching career in the VFL and women’s footy, so I have not spoken with Cam about that. If the opportunity arose, I’ll sit down and have a chat with all parties involved and see if something could be done, but that’s not something we are thinking about at this stage.
Do you think going about Division 2 the same way the club did two years ago is the way you want to do it again, or do you want to do things a little bit differently this time around?
We are looking at planning for the future, but if we were to be promoted after a year then so be it. It’s not what we’re striving to just do, we’re trying to look towards the future and that’s how I’m trying to recruit at the moment, with an eye to the future. We’re speaking with a lot of younger kids. Next year were going to push for an under 19s side for 2020, that’s something myself, Cameron and club really want to push. The entire coaching committee will be new, so there won’t be any pre-conceived ideas about how things should be. We’re all new here with fresh ideas and hopefully we’ll get the best results for Jacana not only for 2019, but beyond. But it’s not a matter of being here for one year and definitely going up, we know it’s not going to be a walk in the park. This is a re-build year for us. We’re recruiting the type of players we think we’re going to need and hopefully if the cards fall our way and we do go up a division, we’ll only have to recruit a few more and not have to re-build again to be competitive in Division 1.
So has all this required a change in mindset within the club and the playing group?
I have been trying to think like that we shouldn’t just rush into things. Unfortunately, we have lost some key players which we probably could have fought harder to keep and were obviously offered more money, but it wasn’t all about that. It’s about the longevity of the club and we’re out there recruiting some boys that want to be here long-term. But off-field we’re working on things. We’ve got our AGM next week and there will be some new committee members coming on-board and hopefully some younger guys will put their hand up and help push the club toward the future.
Finally, I know this will be your first year in the EDFL, but Jacana’s coming back to a division that’s very different from what it was two years ago. It seems to be improving a lot and you’ve now got the complete wildcard of the Sunbury Kangaroos coming in as well, so do you pay much attention to what’s been happening in the division around you or will you have some tunnel vision and just focus on getting your club back on track?
I do hear the outside noise in regard to what’s going on within the division, but I have been trying to have a bit of tunnel vision and only worry about how we’re going about our business. So it’s not so much about what we’re going to have to do to stop other sides. In my mind, I’m thinking about what they’ll need to do to try to stop us. As I said, I know it’s not going to be a walk in the park and I believe it will again be a very competitive division, and that's why we’ll just focus on what we need to do and get that right, and hopefully that keep us in good stead for a successful year.