Sunshine George Cross

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INTERVIEW WITH COACH COREY SMITH

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coreyFirst of all tell us something about yourself:

I grew up in Tasmania and though I lost my mum about 5 years ago, I still have my family living in Hobart and visit them quite regularly. I began playing this game as a 6 year old. I played in the Premier League in Tasmania and I was fortunate enough to have a fair bit of success with Glenorchy Knights and Hobart Zebras where I won four state championships. Then I became involved in futsal and moved to England and played in the five-a-side version of the game. I first got into coaching when I was about 20 when my interest in the game grew deeper. I have had two knee reconstructions which is the reason I’ve stopped playing early and coaching became my main focus. It became my fulltime career with futsal and now I have a private coaching business academy in Ballarat. About seven years ago I began focussing seriously on the outdoor game in Ballarat coaching N.P.L. youth teams where I had a bit of success before deciding to go into senior football. I took a backward step moving to State League 4 with Sebastopol where we won promotion in my first season. The following year in State 3 we narrowly missed promotion by 1 point and now the journey has brought me to my new step at Caroline Springs George Cross.  

Coach you admire most or base your coaching career on?

Funnily enough this all comes back to my career. I believe I was a little bit misunderstood as a player in that I didn’t really have coaches who understood my personality and that was one of the driving motivations to become a coach. I always believed if I can get through to players in a certain way I’d be able to get a certain amount out of them. I like the coaching style of Jurgen Klopps (which funnily enough being a Manchester United fan it pains me to say it), but I like that and Julian Nagelsmann from Hoffenheim is probably another I admire and also Peter Stoger the ex-FC Cologne coach. I did an internship in Germany and was at FC Cologne for two weeks and spent time at Borussia Monchengladbach and Bayer Leverkusen and was fortunate to do a little bit of work with Peter Stoger and learned a lot from him. These are people I look up to, but I believe there isn’t one coaching styles that I admire as I believe I should have my own coaching philosophy and take little bits from everyone and form your own opinion.

Before you came to George Cross what did you know about the club?  

Funny you ask that because as an 18 year old I almost signed with the club through Steve Van Der Linden who at the time had quite a lot to do with Tasmania. My friend Matt Sanders signed with Green Gully and played there for a number of years. I never signed because of my job and looking back in some ways I regret the decision because I never moved across the waters and tried my hand here. Eighteen years on I’m head coach here and it’s strange how football works.

How have you settled at the club?

I have settled really well the team is coming together. Obviously when I came in in November there was a bit of a transition period within the club and I had the base of nothing to start with in terms of the playing squad. We didn’t retain too many players from last year with most of the players having already left. It was a new challenge one that I’ve really enjoyed. The club has been fantastic at this stage and yes settled well.

Did you find think it would be difficult starting with so many new players?

No I actually think the opposite. I think you have two situations of either starting afresh or starting with a full squad, they’re both fine. I think when you have half a new squad come in its difficult because you have people set in their ways and things like that. Off course there’s going to a bit of  a settling period and it will take time for the players to understand the system, but having everyone coming in at the same time, it’s a new beginning in so far as team bonding and understanding what it is about. We have tried to recruit a certain type of character and a certain type of player that will suit my system so I don’t believe this to be a problem and we will be ready for round one.

Realistically what would you like to achieve in your first year?

I am a pretty open book we have hefty ambitions within the squad obviously on the outside we don’t want to give too much away and I don’t like to say I want to finish in this or that position because a lot of that is not within our control in terms of what the opposition are doing, or the players that are in opposition teams. All I know is that every week we will be going into every match looking to get 3 points and if we do that and at the end we are within touching distance we’ll be looking for promotion. That is the ambition, the expectations, but I guess all will be determined by where fit in the pecking order.

Were you nervous applying to coach at a higher level?

No, I absolutely believe I will be one of the top coaches in Victoria in the coming years, so this will be a step and hopefully I can take myself and George Cross to the next level over the next few years.

How did David Clarkson and you become associated?

Clarky and I are both Tasmanian boys so that’s the link there. He has known me since fire-brand young kid and a little bit uncontrollable and obviously I’ve grown up and he has backed me because he wants to see a young Tasmanian coach making it. I bounce a lot of ides of and he’s got a wealth of knowledge, that’s our relationship there and I see him as a mentor in some ways.

How has your relationship been with the committee?

It has been great having a brand new committee and fantastic to see. It’s an exciting time to be at George Cross with the new facilities, new committee, new coaching staff and new players. Mark and Darren and the committee that have come in are doing some great things off the pitch and that’s helping the club move forward. So far the relationship with them has been really good, we have an open book, I have been able to speak to them about everything, so in terms the way the club operates I am really pleased with that.

Are you happy with the squad you have assembled?

Could not be happier, if somebody would have said this is the squad I would finish up with when I first came in November. I had a list of the players I was hoping to recruit and I would say 90% of that list is now here signed on at George Cross. Very, very pleased with the squad we have signed.   

This club hasn’t had a player reach double figures since 2003, is there any chance this will be achieved this season?

I think we’ll have multiple goal scorers this season if things go to plan. Everywhere I have coached I have had prolific goal-scorers. I was a striker myself so I’ll be pushing them fairly hard to make sure they put that ball in the back of the net. I don’t think that will be a problem; goal scoring is a by-product of good football. If we can do this it will enable our strikers more opportunities to score goals.

Do you take a personal interest in watching the younger players in the Reserves?

Yes very much so. That was something we spoke about with the club when I first came in. There are not enough players coming through the youth teams into the senior set-up. Already have two or three young players that where at George Cross last year that have come into the senior team. At training you would have noticed I have been inviting some of the reserve players into the senior group from time to time when their performances have deserved it. I am someone who believes if someone is ready it doesn’t matter what age they are. I have always had faith in youth and not frightened to give someone an opportunity they generally prove you right.

Do you intend to work closely with the Reserve team and junior team coaches?

I already have a very good working relationship with the reserve coach John Campelj and have already touched basis with the new Technical Director Fabrizio Soncin. I have known Fab for a little while, we have spoken and more than happy to have input there, but of course my job and what I’m employed to do here is to get results in the senior team, so firstly I’m here to do that. Secondly my fulltime job is working with youth and I am well qualified in that area so if anybody needs to have a chat or some advice only too happy to assist. Also some of our senior players have already signed to coach junior teams.

There are some very good teams in State League One, how hard is this league going to be this season?

It is going to be one of the toughest leagues outside of the N.P.L. There are many good teams and I see this as a challenge

Which team is going to be the toughest?

I wouldn’t say toughest, but Preston and Sydenham have been talking up their chances and anything less than a top two finish for either is probably a failure. This is only going to add pressure on them. North Sunshine Eagles looks like being very strong again, bit in a league of 12 teams, l think 8 to 9 would have hope of promotion going into the new season. Really until a ball is kicked it means nothing, it is all reputation and I don’t see why we can’t compete with all of them.

At the end of the 2019 season what would make you: 1. Satisfied 2 Happy 3 Disappointed? 

It all comes back to being measurable. For me the measure will be the improvement throughout and I would expect we would improve in every match. Personally I am quite ambitious if we went up it what would make me happy even ecstatic. To make me satisfied we would have to be competitive at the top end of the league and if we are doing neither of these that would be disappointing. I don’t see us being in the lower levels of this league. I am too proud, the players are too proud and the club is too proud to go through that again and that is why they have made the changes they have. I think we will have a team the fans can be proud of this year and that’s my absolute minimum expectations. When fans come to our games this year they’ll know our players are doing everything within their powers to get them results and can be proud of every player.

Are you and the players looking forward to going to the new facilities?

I can’t wait, obviously that’s a big draw-card for every player and it’s going to be a long term thing where playing a style of football that’s conducive to that as well. I am sure it’s a massive pick me up for everyone at the club.

Have you a message for the supporters?

Back the young boys and get behind them at all times. What I want above anything else is that as many as possible come out and supports us this season and at the new facilities hopefully we can create something special. I know the club has a rich history and recent seasons have not seen the club where we want to be, but we need the supporters back to rally behind the team. We will do everything that we can to provide entertaining football and get results. I can guarantee those boys on the pitch will give 100% for George Cross every week, so if they can come out and support us in big numbers we would appreciate it.