Renowned coaches pass on wisdom

Best of the best: Former Gippsland Power coach Paul Hudson and two-time Morwell premiership coach Harmit Singh recently held a coaching masterclass in Warragul. photograph liam durkin

FORMER Gippsland Power coach Paul Hudson and Morwell coach Harmit Singh recently held a presentation to help the next generation of local football coaches.
Facilitated by Singh’s current club Warragul Industrials, Hudson took those in attendance through a number of key points, ranging from session plans, drills, and the finer details to emphasise when teaching fundamental skills.
The session was tailored to an audience of junior coaches, who it is hoped will now be taking some of the lessons passed on from Hudson into their own clubs.
Of particular note from the session was the importance of teaching good kicking habits from a young age.
Observers at junior football may notice a lot of kids tend to move the ball across their body as they kick, or slam it onto the boot rather than guide it down. Hudson described the kicking motion as similar to that of a golf club striking the golf ball.
‘The player’s ability to make strong and precise impact with the ball will ultimately determine if the kick reaches its intended target’, part of a handout put together by Hudson read.
As an exercise, Hudson suggested lining players up 20 metres apart and having each person call out a number from one to four as the ball left their boot, with each number representing a section of the foot the ball strikes. The number one striking position for a drop punt is on the boot’s laces, while the position for other kicks such as the checkside or snap adjusts accordingly.
Delving a bit deeper, Hudson also spoke about the often undersold role the seam of the ball plays in its flight path, much like a cricket ball travelling down the pitch, as well as the role the non kicking foot has in generating power.
A seminar from Hudson on the mechanics of kicking was perhaps a tad ironic given the way his father kicked the ball, but that being said, part of the session also spoke about players discovering what worked best for them.
Peter Hudson certainly found a style that worked for him, as his extremely awkward but highly effective set shot routine returned 727 goals in just 129 games for Hawthorn – despite not many of those 727 goals looking overly convincing, with Hudson instead preferring to kick the now extinct ‘flat punt’.
Paul Hudson followed his father to Hawthorn, playing in their 1991 premiership, before becoming an All Australian at the Western Bulldogs in 1998 and eventually finishing at Richmond for a career total of 245 games and 479 goals.
These days he is coach of the senior 18 at Yarra Valley Grammar School, where Singh is also involved as the head of football.
Hudson has strong ties to the area, having coached Leongatha before leading Gippsland Power to their only premiership to date in 2005.
As well as delivering a flag for Power, Hudson pointed to a number of players in his time that youngsters of today’s world could draw inspiration from.
“Lots of good stories came out of Gippsland Power,” he said.
“It’s something that I’m passionate about, that 18-year-old trying to develop them and give them a chance to play AFL footy.
“It was great to be part of Tyson Goldsack’s career. If it wasn’t for the under 19 rule he might not have got the opportunity to play AFL footy.
“Jarryd Blair was another good one. Height wise most people thought he would never make it and ends up being a premiership player.
“You never say never. Recruiters are everywhere these days so if you are playing well and getting noticed there are mid year and rookie drafts that are happening.
“Some people develop later, just because you are 18 and don’t get picked up doesn’t mean it’s over.”
Speaking of the modern game, Hudson said changes had been drastic from the time he retired in the early 2000s.
“There was that quantum leap where clubs started to go all structure – that has been the biggest one, that wasn’t really around when I was playing,” he said.
“To see it evolve and play to a structure, players are now coming into the game understanding that a lot better. It’s going to give you a better chance of winning if you know your role, your position and what’s expected of you in the game plan.”
When asked for coaching advice, Hudson believed authenticity stood out as a strong hallmark.
“Just be yourself, if you try and be someone else that’s where things can go pear shaped,” he said.
“It (the messaging) has to come across sincere and familiar. You never stop learning, get to as many things as you can. Get to a coaching course, get to an AFL training session, if you can do that you’ll pick up some things. Use your contacts, if you have some contacts, pick their brain.”
Singh is clearly a man who can’t get enough of football coaching, with a foot in the Dusties, Yarra Valley and Essendon camp as coach of the James Hird Academy.
Singh said the idea behind holding a coaching presentation was fuelled by a desire to help coaches around Gippsland improve overall.
“When I first came here I wanted to make a difference in that junior development space helping to build the capacity among coaches in the area,” he said.
“I think it’s important as a club we are visible in the community with what we do.
“If we ensure players can come into the program, learn more about the game, develop their skills and have fun with their mates I think that’s a good starting point at a junior level.”
Singh masterminded back-to-back Gippsland League senior premierships for Morwell in 2013 and 2014.
The 2013 title was of particular note, as the Tigers defeated a Sale team 98 per cent of people in local football thought was genuinely unbeatable.
Sale ended the 2013 home-and-away season three wins clear and with a percentage of more than 200, and also won five games by more than 100 points – one of which came against Morwell a week before finals.
Sale entered the grand final with 32 consecutive wins under its belt. Morwell was given little to no chance, but a muddied Ted Summerton Reserve made for a different outlook for the grand final, which was played on a Sunday.
In the lead-up to the decider, legend has it former Collingwood and then Morwell player Tarkyn Lockyer showed the team vision of how Collingwood set up for kick-ins and looked to replicate its style.
Whatever instructions were given clearly did not fall on deaf ears, as David defeated Goliath by 81 points.
During the second quarter the Tigers kicked seven goals to none and had the scoreboard reading 12.6 (78) to 1.3 (9) at half-time.
Disbelieving spectators were left to rub their eyes to make sure what they were witnessing wasn’t a dream, and it’s likely a few Morwell players and staff members were forced to do the same thing.
A feature of Singh’s coaching in his time at Morwell was how calmly and quietly he spoke to players, so much so it was not even worth spectators venturing over to try and listen to what he had to say at quarter time breaks.
Those privy to a Singh address will also attest to his philosophical way of correlating deeds on the football field to those in life.
“I think football teaches you so much,” he said.
“You can often see that footballers are really hard working, diligent and professionally they’re like that as well. Often they can transfer that into the workforce and be quite successful.”
Perhaps the most ringing endorsement of Singh’s coaching is evidenced by how many players under his coaching have since gone on to coach senior football in their own right.
“I think it’s really important. I like to give responsibly and my line coaches to have some autonomy so they are growing and developing and hopefully that sees them do what they want to do with their coaching,” Singh said.
Morwell has a strong history of developing coaches from within, which could justifiably have the Tigers labelled as a ‘coaching factory’. The 1996 Morwell premiership team coached by Lachlan Sim featured a number of players who went on to coach senior football, including Christian Burgess, Jason Macfarlane, Danny Millar, Brett Sherriff and Rick Galea, as well as Daryl Couling, who has held a number of key football roles in Gippsland.
Harmit Singh coaching graduates
Michael Duncan (TTU and Woodside)
Joel Soutar (Morwell)
Devon Soutar (Morwell East)
Adam Bailey (Yallourn Yallourn North)
Julian Blackford (Yinnar)
Simon Noy (Yarragon)
Jake Best (Traralgon)
Jack Weston (Foster)