Report: JEFF STEPHENSON

IT will be instantly understood by those who know him that when Redland midfielder and three-time club champion Phil Carse left four years ago to launch his coaching career, he did so with a heavy heart in one instance and a sense of excitement and adventure encapsulating the other.

And even if he didn’t say so at the time, he’s now come to the realisation there was also a sense of not having achieved as much as he would have liked in terms of on-field performance by the Redland teams he had been associated.

The newly-appointed Bombers’ coach is back in town after four years at the helm of country Victorian club Camperdown.

And he’s back with the sense that he has some unfinished business to attend to.

He’s far from overwhelmed by the daunting task ahead of him.

In his absence Redland has promised a lot but delivered not much and while the task ahead is one of varying degrees of difficulty, he sees it as just another challenge in a football career that has served him and the clubs he has served very well.

As he sees it the playing group can look at the last few years turn up their noses and trot away with their tails between their legs thinking it’s all too tough.

Or they can accept the situation as it stands and do something about it.

“We discussed it at length at our first meeting and the recognition that every single player in the group must knuckle down and work as hard as they possibly can was taken on board by everyone,” Phil said.

He kept a keen eye on results while at Camperdown and since his appointment has scoured them thoroughly as well as sifting through the qualities of each player.

“There’s no hiding the fact that this last season was tough for everyone.

“But when you pick through the results and dissect each game, it becomes obvious a lot of games were close fought.

“The win-loss ratio is not a reflection of the talent within the group.

“There is plenty of scope to improve.

“And that’s the path we’ll be taking.

“I’m excited about the future and although there has been adversity, I believe that by staring it down and tackling it head on you can overcome.”

He experienced it as recently as this year.

Camperdown was not expected to present any formidable challenge this year in the strong Hampden league – they were, in fact, tipped by most “experts” to walk away with the wooden spoon.

Phil’s motivational ability, backed by an enthusiastic group of mostly local playing talent, fired the Magpies to their first grand final in more than a decade.

They fell short by only 10 points to the Koroit powerhouse in one of the league’s great grand finals.

Along the way they defeated Koroit for the first time in seven years in the second semi-final and at three quarter-time in the big one there was a sense of belief amid the Camperdown camp that they could achieve something that was most likely beyond the wildest dreams of their supporters just a few months earlier.

Alas, they fell just short.

Koroit’s premiership win was their fifth in succession.

Phil described the 2018 season as “one of the most enjoyable years I’ve had in football”.

It was particularly difficult for him as he had moved to Melbourne mid-season as the result of work and he found himself making an arduous four-hour return trip three times a week, often getting home after midnight.

But it was the community involvement that struck him the most.

It’s like that with football clubs in country Victoria – they live and breathe the game.

If the footy team is playing well, then it’s generally recognised the town gets a big bolster in economic terms and an all-round sense of well-being.

Camperdown has a population of just 3000, but some Thursday nights as many as 400 people would attend training to hear the following Saturday’s teams being announced.

Is it any wonder the Magpies lifted on the back of such support?

There won’t be that many at Scottsdale Park throughout 2019, but Phil and the playing group can engender a similar sort of good-feeling should they start turning some of this season’s narrow losses into the more agreeable winning side of the ledger.

Phil, who played 148 matches over his eight years with Redland, has for long time held a strong desire to try the coaching caper.

We’ve discussed his Camperdown experience and he’s had it in the back of his mind to take the next step to State League level.

It was a matter to which State League the road would lead.

“I was thinking maybe the VFL would be the one and when I was approached by Redland – well, I didn’t really see that one coming.

“But it’s a challenge I’m looking forward to.

“I feel like I’ve got some unfinished business at the club.

“There’s some fantastic people at the club on and off the field and I reckon they deserve a bit of success coming their way.

“That’s the motivation – the drive.

“We’ll be giving it everything and I can assure you there’ll be no half measures.”

Phil will be endeavouring to take on the role as playing-coach – in the mould of Canberra’s Kade Klemke – but is under no illusions.

“I’ll be training with the players over the summer and If I think I can add to the leadership on the ground then that’s the role I’ll be playing.

“I’ve got to be honest with myself as to where I’m at and whether I’m up to speed at the level.

“It’s been four years away, but If I think I can do it then I will.”

The major losses from last year are Jackson Paine, who has returned to Melbourne and Brad Howard, who has retired.

Bomber veteran Adam Boon, who cracked the 150-game barrier with the Bombers this year, will also be leaving to pursue his own coaching career with Mt Gravatt.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for Boony and we’re happy and excited for him,” Phil said.

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