Tag: peter francis

Shanara Notman – Grasping opportunity through adversity

GIPPSLAND Power prospect Shanara Notman is somewhat of a coach’s dream; versatile, raw, hard-working, and made of leadership material. The 19-year-old narrowly missed out on being drafted last year, and had pegged her 2020 campaign as one which would help garner the experience and game sense required to make the step-up to an AFL Women’s list.

Setbacks have come thick and fast for Notman and her fellow draft hopefuls in a rollercoaster year, but the talented tall has formed a habit of making good on each opportunity to arise across her young footballing career.

She hyperextended her knee five minutes into last year’s NAB League season, but recovered in time to warrant selection in the Vic Country Under 18 squad. It was during the weeklong carnival in Queensland where Notman thrust her name into draft contention, swinging up forward and even through the ruck after cutting her teeth off half-back for Gippsland.

Being overlooked from those dizzying heights would have put many AFLW hopefuls on the back foot, but not Notman.

“Straight after the draft I quickly contacted Chelsea Caple, our talent manager at (Gippsland) Power,” Notman said. “Less than an hour after the draft, my permit for the 2020 season had been approved for Power, so I was going to go in as a 19-year-old. We had an awesome preseason this year and I put in so much effort to get there.”

The effort looked to be paying off, as Notman, with VFLW and representative experience under her belt, returned a couple of outstanding performances at the start of this year’s NAB League competition. But with that season, along with every other league across Victoria written off in due course, Notman found herself facing yet another hurdle.

“We got two games in this year, we had an awesome camp run by our coach, Scotty (Armour)… but since the news about not playing anymore, then hopefully playing later in the year, which obviously got cancelled too, it’s been a bit heartbreaking,” she said.

Notman (left) in action for Vic Country during the 2019 AFLW Under 18 National Championships

Notman is a talented multi-sport athlete, though the art of hurdling has become more of a mental battle in such “chaotic” times.

“To stay motivated, it’s been full of ups and down this year,” she said. “I’ve been fully committed to going to the gym or going for a kick with a few mates who are local and play VFL with us (in line with COVID-19 lockdown regulations of the time). “But it’s an incredibly difficult time, especially because you’ve got to rely on yourself, not your teammates and coaching staff to keep you motivated.”

With lockdown restrictions eased in regional Victoria in mid-September, Notman says she “can’t wait” to get back to some form of normality and group training as soon as possible.

“I find it easier to train with a group of girls than to train by myself, it just keeps you more motivated,” she said. “I’m lucky enough to have one of my best mates, Breanna Pratt, she plays with me at VFL and she lives really close-by so I can go for a kick with her. I’ve got a home gym set up just to keep fit, too.”

“I’m a really social person… I always chat to the Power girls, just helping out the younger ones. “I’m looking forward even in the future to going back down to Power, helping out there and doing whatever I can to help the girls out.”

As the second-eldest member of Gippsland Power’s current squad, Notman has naturally become a leader among the group – despite only featuring in the elite footballing pathway for two years. Having leant on the likes of Daisy Pearce and Gippsland Power graduate, Tyla Hanks during her time at the Casey Demons, the youngster was especially driven to set an example at the start of her over-age NAB League campaign. Earning the vice-captain tag only made it official.

“I was lucky enough to be named the vice-captain of Power this year alongside Grace McRae, who was our captain,” she said. “I was really putting in with that leadership role as I was (one of) the oldest girls on the team – me and Leyla Berry were the over-agers. I was putting in the effort to lead the girls because we’ve got some 15-year-olds and a pretty young group. It was a really exciting time.”

“Girls like Tyla Hanks from the Power, she’s awesome… I trained with the Melbourne girls at the start of the year, with Daisy Pearce and that. They’re great leaders and they help all the NAB League girls come through. They’re just amazing.”

Shanara Notman in action for Gippsland Power. Source: AFL Media

Given Casey’s ties to Melbourne’s AFLW side, Notman has jumped on the Demons’ bandwagon in support of her VFLW teammates, as her beloved Hawthorn does not yet lay claim to a women’s team. But it’s not just players who have mentored Notman throughout her path less travelled by, as the aforementioned Caple, Armour, and former Gippsland Power stalwart, Peter Francis have also played big roles in seeing her through to this point.

“I’m always in contact with Chelsea Caple and Scotty Armour,” she said. “They’re really good mentors for me, they’ve always been there for the last two years and they’ve really encouraged me to be my best… staff like Peter Francis really helped me get into footy, he was a big help at (Gippsland) Power.”

“At Casey I’ve got our assistant coach Troy Hemming, he’s from Warragul so I’m always giving him a call to go for a kick here and there and just catch up.”

As for the ideal path forward, Notman is looking to harness her versatility and play as high a level of football as possible. There lies somewhat of a Plan B as well, as the 19-year-old plies her trade full-time as a support trainee at Drouin Secondary College in the PE and sport and recreation realms.

“The ideal path will obviously be to start playing footy again next year. But my overall goal will be to one day just play footy at the highest level possible and just enjoy footy,” she said.

“I feel like my best position would be running off half-back. Especially at the Power this year, that really benefitted me… (but) it’s really exciting to be versatile and just play wherever the coach wants you to play.”

“If the draft doesn’t go as I hope this year, hopefully VFL actually goes ahead next year and I’ll just keep playing at Casey because I’m really enjoying that.”

At the time of writing, the 2020 AFLW combine testing and All-Stars game in Victoria were cancelled, leaving the October 6 draft as Notman’s next major point of call.

2020 NAB League Boys team preview: Gippsland Power

LOFTY standards have been set at Gippsland Power after a year full of success, with memorable legacies left by key program components both on and off the field in 2019. A rare crop of talent saw the Power have a real premiership tilt and seven players drafted, marking a fitting end to revered Talent Manager Peter Francis‘ 25 years in the job. But the Morwell-based outfit will be in good hands moving forward, with long-time assistant coach Scott McDougal transitioning into the coordinator role with help from his predecessor. Acknowledging the success of last year while also looking to make his own mark along with a fresh list of players, McDougal is settling into the new role in time.

“(2019) was a very exciting season and a positive one for the club, it’s not often that you get a glut of that talent come through at once,” McDougal said. “You wouldn’t have known that they were any more talented than others in the way they conducted themselves, they were really, really professional about it and it sort of showed throughout. “They dealt with a lot of challenges and they got the most out of the season that they could.”

The shift of roles has been made easier for McDougal given Francis’ guiding hand during the off-season, with the difference in mindset between coach and coordinator becoming clear after 10 years in the former caper.

“It was a really good outcome for Pete in his last year and it was good to be around and involved, I sort of started full-time with Pete the week after the AFL Grand Final and he guided me and showed me the ropes for a month so that was really, really helpful,” he said. “I’ve also got him on speed dial in case anything out of the blue comes up, he’s quite willing to help… I know a lot of the background workings of the organisation, it’s now the integration with head office that – that’s the part that I wasn’t aware of which Pete’s helping me with.”

“The first meeting was challenging because you feel you’re still thinking a little bit like a coach,” he said. “After you sit back and reflect on what you wanted as a coach, what support levels you wanted, how you wanted to be able to organise yourself in your time to get the most out of your part of a session – that’s where I think having that time as an assistant coach, I’ve drawn a line and I’m no longer a coach. “I’m now here to support the coaches to get them to develop just like it our players. “Coaches need to develop and get opportunities to improve otherwise, you’re just standing still – if you’re standing still you’ve gone backwards”.

Getting the best out of those at your disposal is also something McDougal and his coaches will be looking to do in terms of this year’s player crop, with three talented prospects – Ryan Angwin, Sam Berry, and Zach Reid – knocking around the Vic Country hub and all impressing during pre-season amid their come-up. Having each consistently played alongside high-end talent in the form of Caleb Serong, Sam Flanders, and Brock Smith as bottom-agers for the Power, McDougal said that kind of experience allowed the Gippsland program to get the best kids on the right track.

“A lot of that talent comes down to DNA, it’s who comes through your doors and it’s how much you can develop,” he said. “Like with any part of this program, it’s about getting the most out of what’s there and individual development rather than actually tracking a win-loss mentality. “So for a bottom age boy like Sam Berry to have an impact every time he played was really important for us. “For a kid from Foster Ryan Angwin… to now be in (the Vic Country hub), his development is way way greater than say somebody like Sam Flanders who came in really high and has improved along the way. “Ryan’s come from nowhere and now he’s recognised by getting a spot on the Vic Country hub, so they’re exciting to see those guys and where they track now. 

A bulked-up Angwin in particular has impressed McDougall since entering the program “skinny as a whip” with no expectations, primed to have his magnet shuffled like many of the Gippsland top-agers coming into 2020, and likened in style to Power graduate, Xavier Duursma. With the talent in some players abundant, the Power is also set to continue its focus on fundamentals to ensure it does not go to waste.

“We know that they can play so we go through a really extensive selection process where we train a lot of fundamental training; ground balls and our handballs, kicking skills, all the all the things – it’s not just fitness and running and physique and weights, and it’s more about the fundamentals,” McDougal said. “With a kid like Ryan, his clean hands below his knees are exceptional. “His ability to work on his deficiencies, ie., his body shape and size out away from the club is where he’s made his improvement, so when you see them working on things, and then all of a sudden they can impact the game… that’s where we get the most pleasure. “I can see Ryan playing inside mid because he’s really good for a skinny kid, he’s got some really good contested traits. “He’s always first in, clean hands, (and) gives the ball with instinct to the right option nine times out of 10. “So he’ll get a taste inside and he’ll play a lot outside because of his physical attributes of pace and a nice left foot.”

Angwin’s steep rate of development is not something lost on others in the squad either, Jai Newcombe – a 19-year-old prospect who comes in having been cut at the last hurdle for three consecutive preseasons – has transformed since last training at the club, and is set to become a key feature in the Power’s engine room.

“He went away, Jai Newcombe, played the season of footy for Poowong’s seniors,” McDougal said “He also played a couple of games at school footy then halfway through the season, he sort of left school and got a job. “He grew, filled out and became a powerful athlete from when we saw him the Christmas before so he’s been invited back as a 19-year-old and hasn’t put a foot wrong all pre-season. “He is just a powerful inside mid, dominated a couple of intra club practice matches that we had pre-Christmas so I’m really looking forward to seeing how we can get him involved post-Christmas into this pre-season and see how far he can improve.”

Jack Hume and Zac Skinner are two others who may feature as over-agers for Gippsland in 2020, with VFL interest now key in allowing players to gain that second opportunity at NAB League level. McDougal says the door is always open for kids who may turn the corner quickly, with the rates of development usually drastically different between taller and smaller players. Mindset and an environment clear of any high-stake expectations are most important for McDougal and his chargers heading into 2020, just looking to do the best they can at all times.

“It’s always been about making the kids feel welcome, belonging in this environment, challenging them with their work and with new ways of thinking, but always being there to support them and their families through the process,” he said. “Footy is the game that that can give you the most fun and pleasure and it can also kick you in the bum pretty hard at times, and it’s a real replication of what happens in the real world with life. “You’re not always going to get the results that you want but you’ll definitely not get them if you don’t participate along the way and be the best that you can be. “That’s our lesson to all the boys and all the coaches and all the staff and everyone involved in the place – there’s no win loss, there’s no expectation, we just try our best at all times to be the best we can be, on field and off field.”

The Power are set to open the 2020 NAB League season in their clash against Murray Bushrangers at Trevor Barker Oval on Saturday, March 21.

TAC Cup Girls preview: Gippsland Power

TWO recent Collingwood draftees are paving the way for aspiring Gippsland Power female footballers, who have reportedly “stepped up” over the pre-season according to the Power’s female talent manager Chelsea Caple, as she looks ahead to season 2018.

“I think getting two drafted in the 2017 draft has lifted the professionalism for the girls,” Caple said. “(The girls) can see that reality, when maybe a few years before it was more of a dream, so we’ve seen the girls step it up in training, in professionalism on and off the field. “So many of them have the dream of AFLW which now they can see through (Collingwood’s) Holly Whitford and Darcy Guttridge it’s a reality, so I think that’s really exciting as well. “We’re seeing that through pre-season which has been different to previous years.”

There are plenty of changes at Gippsland this year, with both Caple and new coach Scott Armour scouring far and wide for girls to join the club’s program. Armour named former netballer and gymnast Leyla Berry, and multi-discipline Jazz Ferguson as among the ones to watch.

“She (Berry) has just been tearing it up on the training track, she’s just so athletic” Armour said. “Her yo-yo tests are through the roof, her speed is exceptional and she can get the ball and is really exciting. She is a bottom-ager so she is one to watch.”

Ferguson is a 19 year-old permit player and one to keep an eye on given she has only played school football previously. Armour said the coaching staff was buoyant about Ferguson’s prospects in the TAC Cup this year.

“She’s one of the best female athletes we’ve seen go through (our program),” he said. “She’s got speed, she’s got power, she’s got endurance, she’s got height, she’s a fierce competitor, she’s played state level netball, basketball and been an athletics champion, so she’s an athlete and she’s learning the game really quick.”

Without a doubt the one to watch for the Power this year is AFLW Academy member Tyla Hanks, who Armour described as a real “leader”. Caple said Hanks showed her dedication last season as a bottom-ager and her work behinds the scenes impressed many of her male counterparts at the Power.

“Tyla Hanks who is obviously one of our top draftables, trained with the under 18 boys after our season finished last year,” Caple said. “There was more than once the boys asked if she could be selected in their team at training – they have so much respect for the girls as well. “They know the gap, even between their abilities is closing, so that was pretty cool to hear they wanted to play with Tyla.”

The mixed pre-season training has continued over the summer, which is something both Caple and Armour are supportive of to create a close bond between the squads.

“In our pre-season the girls train twice a week,” Caple said. “They’ll train on a Tuesday night as a squad, and then on a Friday night they join in the under 16 and under 18 boys in five different satellite locations. “We’ve found that the girls integrating with the boys has lifted the intensity and also reinforced that message of professionalism. “When the boys get there on the Friday, it’s business whereas the girls sort of have to step in and just go with that, whereas they might have a catch up or have five minutes of chatter. “They are just straight into it, their skills are remarkable when they’re kicking to targets and also receiving from a really strong kick from the boys. “Some of our girls would spend the whole session with the boys and they wouldn’t look out of place.”

Armour said the mixed training sessions were due to the support of Gippsland Power talent manager Peter Francis and under 18 boys’ head coach Leigh Brown.

“They are at every training session, they are with me, so we have up to six coaches on the ground, possibly seven on the ground, so we can split into small groups, do a lot of skill development and that’s all because of the acceptance of the girls program from Leigh and Pete and they’re helping push it along with the boys program,” Armour said. “It’s been really, really good.”

 

With the season fast approaching, the Power opted to play two intra-club practice matches rather than testing themselves against opposition clubs; for a very good reason – to reduce pre-season injuries through controlling the conditions of matches.

“We decided we would do intra-clubs because we can control the environment,” Caple, who is also strength and conditioning coach, said. “We can control how hard our girls hit, we can stop the game, set up structures if we need to, whereas we found if we were to play practice matches, it’s essentially a tenth and eleventh game on top of their really long season. “We modified that, I think that’s why we’ve had two intra-clubs and the girls were able to get that game time in their legs without a competitive game per say. “So we’ve taken those different approaches so hopefully we see this season now, with zero injuries or as few injuries as possible.”

Armour said the intra-clubs were also like an extended training session for the girls, particularly helpful for those new to the game.

“I was out in the middle of the ground with them,” he said. “I was able to say to the girls, ‘no you need to stand there’ or they were able to come up to me and say ‘Scotty, I don’t understand, where should I be?’ so it was really that teaching experience, not just a full-on praccy. “They were playing and getting the match practise, but also getting taught during it, which you can’t do if you’re playing another opposition.”

Gippsland’s first match is on Sunday, March 4 with a home game at Moe, played as a curtain-raiser to the Collingwood-Western Bulldogs AFLW game, a match which could potentially see former Power player Holly Whitford return to her home region, this time in black and white stripes. Armour said the side would focus on playing to their main strength, which is leg speed.

“I think we are going to try and play to our strengths and I think with the list we’ve got, we’ve got some really athletic girls and some really quick girls, so we are just going to try and play to our strengths and where that takes us, who knows? “That is the focus at the moment and really using space and leg speed. “We’ve got a first year footballer (Ebony Jones) who is a state medallist in the 100-metre sprint. “She’s super quick and in the practice match, she just got it a couple of times and ran past everyone. “So it’s really exciting to see the athleticism that we’ve got and I think all the other clubs that get athletic girls, you look to capitalise on that, and that’s what a coach should do, is to capitalise on what your strengths are as a group.”