By LIAM DURKIN
IF ever there was a sign local football was progressing as a society, it was surely seen with the recent appointment of Tom Hallinan as senior coach of the Trafalgar Football-Netball Club.
Given Hallinan’s association with the Bloods arch-rival Newborough, the thought of someone from the Bulldogs actually coaching Trafalgar one day would have been a mere fantasy in a previous era.
While the man himself acknowledged it was somewhat bizarre, he said the two clubs actually shared a fair bit in common.
“Funnily enough there is a lot of
similarities between Traf and Newborough,” he said.
“They are definitely working class, players play for the jumper more often than not and that flows through from how players play from starting siren to end siren and making a contribution to the club over a period of time.”
A few things have changed since Hallinan left Newborough at the end of 2018, not less the fact Trafalgar and Newborough no longer compete against each other, with the Bloods now in the Ellinbank and District Football League, removed from the Bulldogs in the Mid Gippsland Football-Netball League.
The Bloods new coach also believed a healthier relationship now existed between country football clubs.
“The game has changed a lot from the really tough early 90s, rivalries were everything and so too was lining up with the opposition,” he said.
“Now there is a lot more mutual respect. Gladly the behind-the-play stuff is out of the game which is a real positive.”
Hallinan will make the step up from Trafalgar assistant coach to the top job, taking over from Chris Kyriacou.
The new man in charge brings with him no shortage of experience, and by his own admission has “more clubs than Tiger Woods”.
As well as Newborough, Hallinan has played or coached at Preston Bullants in the VFL, Ringwood, Surrey Park, Oakleigh Districts, Balwyn, Tooradin, Doveton, Nar Nar Goon and Aberfeldie.
Trafalgar now adds another club for the career coach, who felt the coaching bug was something that was very hard to shake.
“I think once it’s in you it’s always in you,” he said.
“For me my biggest thing about coaching is trying to better the individual and better the club.
“I’ve always been fascinated by club culture and how to improve it and get more well-rounded players and not players who just play and that’s it.
“I guess I’ve been fortunate to see many clubs and different cultures and how it works and how it doesn’t work.”
For all the clubs and the number of people he has worked with in football, Hallinan pointed to a Newborough legend as someone who helped him the most.
“Dean Caldow was probably my most influential coach,” he said.
“Clever thinking, well planned, always thought ahead, good with developing young people and always a club-first focus.”
In accepting the Trafalgar job, Hallinan said he was taking a holistic approach.
“My job is to create the next wave of leaders and have guys stepping up in responsibilities,” he said.
“I’m there to coach the club, not just the starting 21, and to do that, my job is to empower other individuals under some guidance to have some autonomy in terms of taking on a role and seeing through that role.
“The buck ends up falling with the senior coach don’t get me wrong, but if it’s the senior coach sitting in the drivers wheel and just the senior coach then we have a big problem.”
When asked about his coaching style, Hallinan said most things stemmed from a few basic fundamentals.
“It’s all based on self-discipline, that is the cornerstone of what I do,” he said.
“I’m probably more a contested coach, don’t get too wrapped up in the AFL system at local footy, local footy is footy – beat your opponent type of thing.
“Myself as a coach I’m not afraid to eyeball, but by the same token able to build good rapport with players so they understand their role and play their role for the team.
“My motto has always been ‘supress the ego for the betterment of the team’.”
With the Bloods finishing their first season in the EDFL in second position, Hallinan believed this was an accurate reflection of how the side performed.
“I think we were exactly where we were in that top-two,” he said.
“It definitely wasn’t ‘new league syndrome’ and it definitely wasn’t teams taking it easy on us.
“Our playing group was certainly well matched to Ellinbank, we weren’t a fish-out-of-water nor did we have a real sugar-hit.
“Had we gone for the second half of the year I think that would have proven to be the case.
“Definitely the objective next year is the flag and it’s a realistic objective, but so is getting the young kids transitioned and accustomed to senior footy and that job is creating an inclusive environment for them.
“Next year I think I will pare it back a bit to some basics, I’m mindful of the fact senior players have played six months in two years so I will be prepared just to pare it back to ensure the fellas are coming along and not overcooking it with technicalities.”
As for how he has gone winning the respect of the playing group to the point where they can see past the red, white and blue of Newborough, Hallinan said it was simply a case of knowing how the mentality of a football squad operated.
“It’s the individual who has to shift to the group, the group doesn’t shift to the individual – I learnt that a long time ago,” he said.
“The biggest thing I needed to do was not stand on the sidelines and watch training and not be part of the group, I had to start training with the boys.”
That being said, Hallinan said he was still happy to have fun with the whole ‘Newborough bloke coaching Traf’ thing.
“It’s a bit of banter … my biggest task is making sure I know the words of the Traf song verbatim,” he said laughingly.
“A couple of times I wore my Newborough training top and I felt like a rabbit out in front of greyhounds, but it’s all good, footy is footy at the end of the day.
“Newborough will be resurgent next year under Craig Skinner so I’m really pleased to see that element but my alliance is with Traf and seeing continual improvement there, introducing my bit of flavour and
empowering others to take the lead.”