By JEFF STEPHENSON
NOT every footballer can finish his career on his own terms, but that’s how it will be for Redland coach Phil Carse when he plays his last game for the Bombers this Saturday at Scottsdale Oval.
Phil announced his decision to retire as a player to the group before training on Tuesday night and will now look to the next stage of his fabulous career from a purely coaching point of view.
While many players are caught “between the devil and the deep blue sea” Phil’s worrisome body forced him to bring on his decision without too many concerns or recriminations.
“When I came back to the club (from Camperdown) I thought the absolute max in terms of playing would be two years, depending, of course how my body stood up to the week in- week out battering at this level,” he said.
“But I had a lot of calf issues in the pre-season and then knee issues during the in-season and I knew early on that this year would probably be my last.
“I’ve got to say this place has represented a special place in my life and I’m bloody glad to finish it here.”
Saturday’s game against Canberra Demons will be Phil’s 163rd for the Bombers with his career starting back in 2007.
Phil is among Redland’s most decorated players having won the coveted Dowling Medal a club-record three times and his association with the club and his standing in the community – football and beyond – has him placed high on the list of the club’s most respected identities.
While he is indebted to the help given to him and his family over the duration, he’s now looking forward to the next phase of his career as coach – rather than player-coach – as one that will offer more challenges, more ebbs and flows, plenty of excitement, dashes of disappointment and satisfying highs that constantly encircle a football club.
He sees a bright future for the Bombers.
The club has invested heavily in a substantial grouping of debutants this season and they have shown they are more than capable of making the grade at this level.
“We have had the good fortune to have access to several Brisbane Lions’ Academy kids across the season and alongside our core senior players they will help as far as the building blocks are concerned going into next season.
“We have some terrific senor players and I reckon some of our kids will be able to stand up in key positions over these next few seasons alongside them.”
While “not quite there” yet the Bombers have shown they are on the verge of playing finals football providing they can start introducing four quarters of sustained pressure and this will be the centre-point of Phil’s concentration over the next few months.
His on-field role this season has given him a “close-up” on the playing group.
He’s been able to click into the mindset of the group when under pressure and determine how they inter-act and go about the tasks they have been set.
“It’s been invaluable to me that sort of thing.
“I know we’re not quite where we want to be, but individually and as a team, the boys have shown they are on the right track.
“They’ve been invested in the game plan. Not once have they waved the white flag or dropped their bundle.
“It’s a fine line and externally the results might not appear to be the best, but internally we’re confident about what we’ve got to do and how to get there in a short period of time.
“You’ve only got to look at the AFL and Brisbane Lions and Carlton and see where they are now.”
From a personal point of view Phil says coaching from the sidelines will offer him a “new perspective”.
“I suppose you can get that bird’s eye view and a better look of how the game unfolds.
“It’ll be an important step for me too because as coach I can spend more one-on-one time week-to week and focus on the boys and not so much the conditioning required to play the level from a personal perspective.”
As Phil says 2020 will be a year “to reset”.
So, after 17 seasons playing at very high levels – accumulating 315 games along the way – what reflection is he allowing himself to look back and say “yep, that was good”.
It necessarily and unsurprisingly reflects the Redland Football Club.
“The big one for me is the rise of the Redland club.
“In 2007 (the year he arrived) we were in a really difficult position and we were regularly being beaten by 100 plus points. We won just one game that year.
“In 2008 we got it to three wins and then between 2009 and 2014 we didn’t miss the finals and while we didn’t achieve the ultimate success, we were able to bring to the club a really strong rebuild.
“We had struggled – really struggled – and then we became a power of the league.
“I’m always proud to be taking on that sort of challenge.”
The next year and beyond will offer up new challenges, but no-one is better credentialled than Phil Carse to stand up, accept it and provide the type of grit, drive, example and commitment aimed at turning things around.
He’s been an absolute credit to himself and a beloved son of the Bombers.
With the playing group 150 per cent (can there be a 150 per cent?) behind him, a full-on attack aimed at forging ahead and off-field as well as on-field support, the future is looking bright.
Here’s cheers to you Phil on a brilliant playing career and now leading into what we expect will prove a fabulously successful coaching career – wherever it may take you.
Of course, the best way to celebrate will be with a signing off victory against Canberra on Saturday.
GO BOMBERS AND GO PHIL
Some stats on Phil’s career:
Played 315 games over 17 seasons – firstly with St Leo’s in the Victorian Amateur Football Association, Box Hill in the VFL, Redland from 2007-2014, Camperdown 2015 -2018 and back to Redland 2019.
Captained Redland 2008 – 2012 and 2014.
Three-time Bombers’ best and fairest – 2007 -09- 10.
St Leo’s best and fairest 2004.
Redland Hall of Fame and Team of the Decade (2000-2009).
Represented NEAFL 2009 -12 -14.
Represented AFLQ 2009
Represented Hampden Football League 2015-16.
Box Hill Hawks Development League premiers 2006.
Coach Redland 2019-??
Playing-coach Camperdown in Hampden Football League 2015-2018, runner-up twice in club best and fairest and runner-up HFL best and fairest.
Led Camperdown to grand final in 2018.
Hampden Football League Coach of the Year 2018.