On the eve of his last match in the Ovens and Murray, Myrtleford mentor Stan Magro goes one-on-one with The Border Mail’s Chris Mitchell about his highlights and lowlights of his time in the mountains and why it might be his last coaching gig, for a while at least.
CHRIS MITCHELL: Tomorrow at home against Wodonga Raiders will be your last moment as coach of Myrtleford footy club, what’s been your best moment?
STAN MAGRO: It’s seeing the young blokes blossom against Albury this year and be able to hold their own and get a successful outcome against a really good, quality opposition.
CM: What about your worst moment?
SM: The worst moment is probably that the coaches’ box wasn’t blown down on a Saturday, we might of got a draw in our first year. The game would have been abandoned.
CM: There’s been some good players at McNamara Reserve, who’s the best player you’ve seen?
SM: I’ve really got two. Joely Coombes brought more than just his ability to the club. He brought his family and a real love for the place. And he brought a bit of excitement into the group. He’s been a consistent goalkicker and quality player for us for three years.
The other one is Harley Ryan, who came last year. Harley is as good as what’s going in the comp. He’s nearly the best. Had he not been reported last year he might have won the medal, in my opinion.
CM: What about the best player you’ve seen in the O and M?
SM: It’s pretty hard to say. Fev gets up there pretty highly because he’s obviously got great football ability and he’s still got good lateral movement for a bloke as big as he is.
CM: There’s some great personalities at Myrtleford, who’s your favourite?
SM: It would probably be Brendan Breen who got me over. He took his ability to bulls**t to a new level this year.
He went overseas and became an international award-winner. Even people from around the world were asking how he sells tractors and does this and does that. He’s nearly got me going home in a tractor.
CM: Do you have any regrets?
SM: The only regret I have is we lost Spanner (Matthew Spencer) this year. Had we had him in our side for the year, not only because of his footy ability but his leadership and personal qualities, I think we might have been middle of the road. We certainly played well enough to win more games but we didn’t have that person out there to cultivate that little bit extra that you need.
CM: What will you miss most, the club, the area, the people, the media (laughs)?
SM: I think my wife (Anna) and myself will miss the friendships. People that we’ve met. To be able on a Sunday to just walk down and have a game at the golf club or go up to Bright, you can’t do that where we are going. They are all things we’ve taken for granted over the past two or three years that we’ll miss dearly. We’ve spent Easter at Buffalo lake and other places. We went up to the King Valley to the wineries on a bus with a whole group of us. You work hard but you like to play hard, too. We will miss the lifestyle.
CM: What won’t you miss?
SM: I’ve got only two negatives. One is at our age in the middle of winter it’s a bit chilly for us. Spring time and summer, it’s fantastic. The other thing I won’t miss is coaching and being involved in footy. I think I’ve got a little bit too old for it. The game has evolved so much. It’s too much for one person on a part-time basis to do it justice. When I started it was all rah rah and you did it for the jumper. That no longer exists. It’s all about why you are doing things, your structures and your methods. People have to trust your methods otherwise there will be questions.
CM: Are you sad to leave? It’s been nearly three years and the club has made some big strides.
SM: I think for the club, the right step is to bring some new blood in. Maybe a playing coach to give them a bit more on field and some fresh ideas and build on what we’ve put in place now. They could be a threat. And a really good one, too. Not just playing finals but actually having a bit of a say.
CM: You’re 58 and moving home to WA to spend more time with your wife Anna and daughters Melinda and Laura. What are you going to do when you get back? Are you finished with coaching?
SM: I don’t think I’ll be doing coaching any more. I just want to spend some time with the girls and my wife and do some family things. I’ve still got a group of mates, we are in a betting syndicate. We’ll go to the footy together and the races and stuff like that. I’ve still got plenty to do.
CM: Why did you come to Myrtleford? You’d done it all at every level, what attracted you to the Saints?
SM: There’s two reasons. One is we liked the opportunity to live in Myrtleford and have that country lifestyle. The second thing was they were crying out for someone with a profile to take over and try to drum up some interest in the footy club. Hopefully I’ve done that.
CM: The Saints will finish outside the finals again, when can you see them seriously challenging for a premiership?
SM: We’ve got to learn to be consistent winners and be able to play in September at a level that gives you successful outcomes. The premiership is the cream on the cake. You’ve got to get the cake right first. I’ve got a lot of faith in this group if it stays together. Blokes like Lee Dale, and if Tabs doesn’t get drafted. You’ve got to keep your Dussins and your Cossignanis, your Ben Pauls, Josh Chapmans, Grant Harris, Riley O’Shea. They have only played together for about 36 games. It’s not a lot.
CM: The club is close to announcing its next coach. What does that coach need to do to keep the club moving forward?
SM: I’d like to see the club get co-coaches. It doesn’t matter if they are playing or one non-playing. I’d just like them to be trustworthy and honest with the players. To make sure they demand the boys prepare well and continue the preparation is to the level we’ve put in for the past few years. We’ve had good sponsors this year who have given us software and a television to watch video.
CM: Would you change anything about your time at Myrtleford? Would you have liked to recruit more?
SM: Probably playing Spanner on ball when he got injured in the first game. I’d probably change that. If he was full-forward he probably wouldn’t have got hurt. I’ve got my own opinions on how to prepare sides. Getting them ready to train and play and all that. I was questioned a couple of times about some of the methods. I didn’t really stray from what I was doing. Probably testament to that was the way we finished off last year and again this year. The program I put in tries to do a lot of base work in January and get them right early and come home strong. I’ve always believed you’ve got to be up and about the end of August and during September.
CM: Are you happy with your contribution over the three seasons? What sort of mark would you give yourself?
SM: I certainly would like to have had more time to spend with the individuals. I was full-time at work in Albury and a coach as well. When I first started I said, “I’ll be throwing a lot at you”. I’ve always thought if you throw enough, some of it’s going to stick. They got bombarded in their first year. In some games they were so tired, mentally more so than physically because they had so much in their head. We haven’t recruited this year.
We replaced Chris Hickey with Aaron Kite. I said to the club I want to use this group again next year to determine how much progress we were making.
Whether they could have afforded any more is not the point. I wanted to see where this group is going to go. I’ve said to them all along that they are advancing. This competition is the best it’s been in three decades.
To be able to knock Albury off, to have Wang Rovers on the ropes, to have Lavi on the ropes. They didn’t actually win it, we gave it to them with some mistakes. Yarra would be an eight-goal better side than last year.
CM: What does the team need to take the next step? A key forward, more midfielders?
SM: It depends who stays. If everyone stays we’d probably need another good onballer, just to win more of the ball and feed our forwards. We’ve actually got a pretty good forward line with Pavitt, Coombes, Kite, Spencer, Taberner.
CM: The O and M has risen several levels this year. How does it compare to say the WAFL or the VFL?
SM: It’s too hard to tell. WAFL is different footy. It’s a lot bigger grounds and there’s a lot more room. Certainly this year everyone is closer. I don’t think anybody has walked over us this year apart from Yarra the second time.