MATTHEW Horne is the new man at helm at Strathmore after serving as Nathan Grima’s senior assistant since 2017.
The first-time senior coach was Strathmore’s bench coach when Grima was on the field throughout 2018 and has had a front row seat to Strathmore’s recent resurgence as one of the better teams of Strathmore Community Bank Premier Division.
The Mores were agonisingly close to making the grand final this year, but allowed Keilor to storm home and win what was an amazing prelim final at Windy Hill back on September 9.
Horne is confident he can pick up where Grima left off and push Strathmore toward a flag in coming seasons.
Last week the 28-year-old sat down with Adem Saricaoglu at Windy Hill.
AS - Take us through your recent journey in footy and how you’ve reached this point, landing a job as significant as this...
MH - It’s been a relatively short coaching career in all honesty. I went to PEGS for a year and was an assistant under Dane Pound and then came back to Strathmore to coach the reserves two years ago. At that stage, Nathan Grima was going to play and he didn’t have a sideline coach, so through the pre-season we’d built up enough trust that he asked me to be the sideline coach when he played. But unfortunately, he went down with that season-ending knee injury. I still held down the assistant senior role because we brought another reserves coach in, and from there I’ve had a partnership with ‘Narny’ for two years. Obviously, this year Nathan was able to play some games and in those games, I coached from the sidelines.
Who took the huddle?
So predominately I took the huddle. He might pop in late with a couple of stats but during breaks, I’d take about 75 per cent of the huddle, go through our key indicators, our game sense and style and see how the game was playing out, and then from there he might add a thing that he picked up out on the ground.
So similar to the role Craig Clinnick played at Maribyrnong Park alongside Robbie Castello?
Yeah probably similar to that I guess. The good thing with Nathan was that he was also a young coach in terms of his development. He was really open to other guys having an opinion and didn’t have any ego. If he thought I had the right stuff, he’d just let me go from there and wouldn’t step in too much, which was good.
It was a short but sweet stint that Narny had. How do you look back on it?
We obviously got bundled out in an elimination final and then this year went out in the prelim in not great circumstances. But through that phase, the development of guys between 17 and 23 has been really good. You can obviously see it through the young guys like (Kyle) Weightman, (Lachie) Currie, Luke Cuffe, Ben Holian and all those types of guys, but there’s also guys like Daniel Mighell, Nick Ingleton, Tom Condon when he came back from the VFL… there’s probably a group of 10 to 15 guys which he made substantially better. Under his watch, a big group of Strathmore guys got a lot better. That’s where his strength was. He’s also a great person and was open to many things.
How important was it for the club, given you were one of his right-hand men, to have a consistent message and continue on from what he was doing, instead of looking for someone completely new from outside and revamping the whole thing? Clearly the club’s happy with the current path and your appointment seems to complement that. Do you think that was how the process ended up playing out?
A big part of the presentation was that if this was a house, we’ve been renovating the house for two years and we think it’s going along the right track. So to put someone in that’s been on the build for that two-year period and continue with that rise, obviously I thought that was very important and through my appointment, obviously the club thought that was important, too.
The familiarity that the playing group has with you clearly seemed to be an important factor in the end…
Yeah, I’m sure it was. I obviously don’t know what was discussed behind closed doors, but it was a part of my presentation. Moving forward, the way we play is going to be similar but there’ll definitely be extra layers with the players we bring in (and) with the new assistant coaches we bring in. We want a challenging environment. Obviously, we didn’t get as far as we wanted to last year, so if we can add extra layers through players, coaches, admin, physio, that type of thing, I think we can step up again and aim to get the ultimate success. That’s where we want to go.
Knowing you won’t want to reveal names yet… exactly how active have you been with recruiting so far?
We’ve been active without going crazy. We’ve signed a couple of guys and when the job was handed over, we did a list analysis and we outlined a couple of keys areas we thought we needed to bolster. I’m happy to say that one of them was a key back, one was a back-up ruckman, one was a midfielder on the outside and one was another forward.
Have you ticked each of those four boxes?
Not yet but we’re confident that we will. They’ll be guys between the ages of 22 and 28 and they’ll be guys that can play footy for the next three to four years.
How are you personally looking forward to the challenge of going up against the likes of McGuane, Potter, Chapman and the like?
I’m super-excited about doing it. I’ve got strong belief in my coaching ability and what I stand for, as well as the group that I’ve brought along with me. I’ve got some really experienced guys in my coaching panel and then I’ve also got Nick O’Brien, who I think footy-wise is as good as anyone and there’s another guy we’re adding to the club that’s going to be a playing assistant who’s played high levels of footy…
No names yet?
Nah no names yet. But I’m really confident that I’ve got what it takes to compete with these guys. It’s a great challenge for me and it’s a great opportunity for me and that’s where I want to be. I know the guys inside the club that I’ve had a relationship with for two years believe in me and I’ll believe in them strongly, so that’s all I’m worried about at the moment.
Did you watch the grand final?
Is that because of how the prelim played out?
To be honest, I’m not a highly emotional guy but that prelim obviously cut deep. I’ll watch it before the end of the year but I didn’t want to watch it live and didn’t want to even talk about footy at the time.
How has the playing group dealt with that disappointment?
Make no mistake, after the game it was probably the most solemn place I’ve ever seen for a footy club. We were cut up. A lot of guys were coming into the end. Everyone has that thought process through their head thinking about what more they could have done, and that’s natural. But when we get back to pre-season it’s just got to be something that drives us and not defines us. We got to that position because we played the style that we did, because we believed in what we thought would work. In the end we got run over when we probably shouldn’t have but as I said, it’s something that’s got to really drive us and not define us. That’s how I see it and that’s how a lot of the playing group sees it.
You ready to go all the way? That feels like a silly question I know… but is 2019 the year Strathmore can go bang and go all the way?
The Strathmore Football Club wants to go all the way every single year and if you don’t believe you can, then what’s the point of actually starting a pre-season? I’ve been around the club my whole life and this club always thinks it can win the grand final and I’m not going to hide from that and say we’re just a young, developing team. We want to win the grand final, make no mistakes about that, but there’s a process to get to that. If we continue to follow the right process, to continue to believe in each other and believe in what we’re bringing to the table then yes, I think a flag is definitely a possibility.