Cougar ticks all the right boxes



By Samuel Darroch

CHURCHILL Football Club’s dual head coach experiment has been abandoned with the appointment of 2013 Newborough playing coach Allan Chandler to the top job.

Chandler replaces Tim Darby and Leigh McDonald, who will remain at the club despite stepping down, after thoroughly exploring his 2014 options in the Latrobe Valley and beyond.

A former understudy to Troy Makepeace at Moe, Chandler said he was attracted to Churchill’s premium facilities and its talented young list, fresh from a third grade grand final appearance.

“There’s a lot of young talent that should be ready to explode into senior footy and really step up and win games off their own boot,” Chandler said.

“Everything is ready to go. The young list has played enough games to be pushing for that premiership.”

The 32 year-old said his aspiration to become a senior premiership-winning on-field coach was another driving factor behind his decision.

“I wanted something where I thought I could win a premiership in two years or at least compete to that level,” Chandler said.

“I think I’m getting on a bit playing-wise… next two years I can probably play some pretty decent footy, but after that you start to slow down.

“The last three years have been pretty good, but I’ll be playing in a slicker comp next year so probably need to get a bit fitter.”

After signing a two-year contract with the Cougars, Chandler immediately began attacking the senior list.

Lauding the efforts of Darby and McDonald, the incoming coach said only minor tweaks and subtle changes would be necessary.

A tally of 1859 points this season placed Churchill at the top of the North Gippsland league for attack, but it was the only top six side to concede more than 1600, leading Chandler to examine the defence.

“We need to target a couple of types of players, specific positions, and when we get them everything is going to hopefully go beautifully,” he said.

Having finished fifth in one of the tightest regular seasons on record, Chandler said it would not take much to jump up the ladder in 2014.

The former Mid Gippsland coach plans to bring a regimental approach to recovery and a renewed focus on kicking skills to the Cougars.

“I’m very fitness orientated, but very skills based as well… (with) all those things going right it’s only going to lead to improvement and if that improvement takes us all the way to the top that would be fantastic,” he said.

Churchill president Mick Johnson said the club had been on the hunt for an outsider, having appointed internally for the past decade, and Chandler “ticked all the boxes”.

Johnson said of particular interest was his background in education and potential to develop the reserves and thirds.

“We like his record that he had at Newborough for sure,” Johnson said.

“We strongly believe he can change our culture a little bit, which I believe he did at Newborough… our mid-range group and the reserves we sort of probably need to have a bit of a clean out and bring a few new heads in.

“We’ve got some talent there and we just think with his culture and schoolteacher background he’d be exactly what we wanted.”

Chandler said he would look to start pre-season in November.