By Russell Bennett
Garfield is the first side in the West Gippsland Football Netball Competition to make a senior coaching change for 2018, with Hayden Stanton replacing former player-coach Joel Morgan at the helm at Beswick Street.
Stanton, who has previously coached at Officer, Mulgrave, Doveton, the Monash Blues, and South Belgrave, this year served as the Under 19s coach at Noble Park and the defensive coach for Mick Fogarty’s senior side.
He said he’d had an interest in coaching the Stars since he and his family lived in Garfield years ago.
“Always in the back of my mind I’ve wanted to coach the club,” he said.
“I really enjoy the company of the people there and I thought that if there was ever a club in the outer fringe, that’d be the one I’d look at.”
Garfield finished the inaugural WGFNC season in eighth on the ladder with five wins and 13 losses, but Stanton sees plenty to be optimistic about in both the near and long-term future.
The Stars will be active in recruitment – looking for a spearhead up forward and more quality through the engine room – but central to Stanton’s planning will be the club’s young brigade.
“I talked about bringing a stronger, bigger focus around club discipline and structure without it being too mechanical,” Stanton said about his meetings with the Stars so far.
“I talked with them about strategy and set-ups, and opportunity as a non-playing coach to see the game evolve and make the necessary changes throughout it.
“We want to collectively drive standards around the place, but now that we’ve had a year and seen that the competition has good viability for the club, we want to be stronger again with a real emphasis on player development when it comes to the young kids.
“We want to really focus on teaching them and not throwing too many of them in there when they can’t cope with it.
“At Garfield we’ve got a lot of natural pace and talent but defensively, and probably physically, we’re not very strong so when we were challenged in games this year we might have been in for a quarter or two, when the whips were cracking we were found wanting.
“We’ve certainly got to try and manufacture the right game plan that suits the way we need to play in that competition.”
The Stars have lost the Payne boys – Tyson and Darcy – for next season, in addition to 2017 recruit and playing-assistant Jarryd Drew. Each of them has moved interstate, but the club looks set to retain Morgan as a player.
Gun ruckman Tom Marsh is another key component that the Stars will be looking to hold on to next season, and to play more regularly.
“You put Tom Marsh full-time in our side, recruit three or four gun players and develop your kids in the pre-season you’re going to win another five or six games minimum,” Stanton said.
“They won five this year so that’s going to put you in that bottom part of the (top) five.”
Stanton and the Stars are realistic on their expectations for 2018, but see incredible potential throughout their playing stocks.
“I think the untapped ability is there and that we need to structure that in the right way – setting up a program and a process where I think guys will naturally develop and evolve,” he said.
“The club has that junior base pushing through all the time so our points won’t seem to be an issue like it may be for other clubs going forward.
“We’ll have a strong mindset on being really composed centre-back, and really electric centre-forward. We’ll move the ball to our forwards, but we’ll also learn how to defend the ground better.
“There’s no excuses for us not to get the best out of our group. For people who are looking at maybe coming to this competition – we are a destination club.”
Garfield Football Director John White said the club did its due diligence during the interview process and Stanton “came highly recommended from everyone we spoke to”.
“He knows his footy and how to get the best out of people,” he said.
“He’s already done his preparation and homework on the playing group and presented to us a really good plan for the future – not just on game day, but for the culture and growth of the club too.”
One of Garfield’s existing drawcards when it comes to player recruitment is the quality of its Beswick Street ground – one of the best playing surfaces that the Gazette’s Football liftout covers.