DARYN Cresswell isn’t afraid of a challenge. After playing 244 matches for Sydney Swans and being an AFL assistant coach, Cresswell’s life hit rock bottom when he was sentenced to 10 months’ jail for fraud in 2010. Cresswell vowed to turn his life around after being released and has done just that, coaching Palm Beach-Currumbin in Queensland for the past three seasons.
His next stop is Birallee Park, with the former champion telling The Border Mail’s BRETT KOHLHAGEN yesterday that he couldn’t wait to start work with the Ovens and Murray club.
BRETT KOHLHAGEN: How did you find your way to Birallee Park?
DARYN CRESSWELL: It all happened pretty quickly. I have had a few phone calls from down south about coaching but I was fairly comfortable up in Queensland enjoying the lifestyle and having a really solid landscaping business. Then I fielded a call from Nic (Conway) and thought it would be silly of me not to go down for a look even though I thought it be unlikely that I would take the job on.
BK: What swayed you?
DC: Probably meeting the people and seeing the passion around the club. You could see it in their eyes that they are hurting. I just saw it as a great challenge and opportunity.
BK: You watched the Wodonga Raiders and North Albury and Albury and Lavington matches when you visited Albury a couple of weeks ago. What were your impressions?
DC: The standard is pretty similar to the NEAFL. Queensland footy is fairly slick and fast and the ball gets around quickly. The significant difference between where the Raiders are compared to Lavington and Albury is massive. There is a lot of work to do and it’s going to be a real challenge. That doesn’t really worry me too much. Lavington and Albury’s set-ups are good and we need to build a strong base and foundation to build off and get the players when they come to the club to enjoy the environment and work hard.
BK: What is your recruiting strategy from here?
DC: We don’t want to spend big money but it would be good to get seven or eight quality players to bridge that gap. We want to bring the right people into the place. People of the calibre of Todd Bryant who love the club and aren’t there for the dollars are perfect.
BK: The Raiders are coming from a long way back, so it won’t happen overnight, will it?
DC: Instant success probably won’t be there but we certainly need to be harder to play against. We need the players to realise the expectations that come with playing for the jumper. The fitness levels really stood out to me, as well as the work ethic of the Albury and Lavington players was much better. We need to put in a big pre-season and lay the foundations to build on.
BK: What is your knowledge of the Ovens and Murray like?
DC: In Sydney, I lived with Timmy and Mark Sanson and Graham Hart in a boarding house, which was pretty wild. I know those boys pretty well. Obviously knowing Toddy and Brett Kirk as well you pick up bits and pieces. I’ll learn a bit on the run and will need some support along the way.
BK: When do you plan to move down to Wodonga?
DC: I need to be there from the get-go. I’ll be there in October ready for pre-season.
BK: How hard was it telling Palm Beach-Currumbin you would be leaving?
DC: When I got to the club it was on its knees and we have been through a lot together. Our club feeds off a strong culture and you develop some great relationships. It was sad when I had to tell them I would be leaving. We are just really focused on finishing this year off well.
BK: Todd told me you aren’t scared to give out an old-fashioned spray?
DC: You have to and can’t pick and choose. Everyone is on the same page as far as I’m concerned. Toddy will tell you that as he’s copped a couple this year. Everyone knows where I stand. I think it’s also important to give positive feedback as well.
BK: Who has been the biggest influence on your football career?
DC: “Rocket” Eade was instrumental in my career and probably the best tactician I played under. I still have a strong relationship with him. I was lucky working with Eade, Paul Roos and Mark Thompson and learnt a lot off all of them.
BK: Do you get asked more about the time you knocked your dislocated knee cap back into place at Geelong or the time you spent in jail in 2010 for fraud?
DC: It used to be the dislocated knee cap, but obviously everyone has an interest in what it’s like to be inside.
BK: What was it like?
DC: Having been involved in AFL footy for 12 years where you have to be highly disciplined and physically strong helps you make the adjustment to being inside. It’s all about keeping your nose clean, doing your time and getting out.
BK: You worked really hard on your fitness in jail, didn’t you?
DC: I did. It kept me busy, but in saying that I have always been a bit of a fitness nut. I’m still running 40 or 50 kilometres a week while my knees hold up. I played a couple of games a few years ago and couldn’t walk for a week.
BK: How important has your wife Joanne been over the past few years?
DC: She’s a cracker and has really stuck by me. We have built a strong life together with a good business and house. She has done a lot of work behind the scenes.
BK: They say she’s a handy netballer as well?
DC: She is. She actually represented England. It was funny because when we were down here a few weeks ago I was watching the footy and she was over watching the netball so the Raiders might have a netballer as well.