One could be forgiven for believing, that at just 22, Jacob Simmons-Bliss was just beginning his fledging coaching career. You’d be wrong. Simmons-Bliss, who began coaching in 2004, will coach his 100th game this weekend as his Zillmere Eagles take on top of the table Coolangatta Tweed.
“I always wanted to get into coaching, I always had aspirations to be an elite football coach. I got the opportunity really early, this will be my 11th season coaching,” he said.
Rex Watts, his mentor and assistant coach for much of his early career, played a huge role in smoothing the transition at such a young age.
“He knew I wanted to go down that pathway and he really supported me in doing that,” he said.
“He was an absolute support to me and he made sure that not only was there respect between us as a coaching group but with the players as well.”
Simmons-Bliss, in a reaction that would not seem out of place coming from the mouth of an AFL coach, was quick to put his milestone in perspective.
“It’s really exciting. It’s a really good achievement, personally, to coach high level footy for a really long time. From a coaching perspective: Just another game,” he said.
In such a short space of time Simmons-Bliss already has a cupboard full of accolades that would make even a coach many years his senior proud.
A 2012 QWAFL premiership coaching Yeronga: undefeated, while last year saw him make another grand final with his current team Zillmere.
“That was a really good achievement because that was my first year at Zillmere football club,” he said.
“To bring a group together that was not in the best shape at the start of the year, for us to achieve that and get to a grand final, was a really good achievement.”
Last year Simmons-Bliss joined the Western Bulldogs as an assistant coach for women’s team. This may be a hint of things to come, given the AFL’s decision to field a women’s national competition by 2020 and his dedication to the female footy.
“It’s an exciting brand of footy, it’s really contested, absolute high performance in terms of their run and carry. They use the ball really well, they have such a high skill level,” he said.
“Female footy is just a far more exciting part of the industry I think. It’s definitely going places. There’s going to be the national women’s league within a few years, so that’s very exciting. Hopefully one of those opportunity arises but I’ll take everything as it comes.”
As the years have progressed so has he, making the transition to a modern day football coach, placing a huge emphasis on high performance.
“I’ve definitely gone down the high performance path with everything that I do now,“ he said.
“Alastair Clarkson he’s such an analyser of the game, he’s got such a football brain. I really thrive on that analytical side of footy, so he’s probably my professional role model in terms of high performance coaching.”
“I really work on making sure players get as much feedback as possible. I really work hard making sure we maintain a high level of performance throughout whatever we are doing, be it a training session or match.”
If Simmons-Bliss can follow in the footsteps of another coaching icon he has been compared to then there are great things on the horizon for the young coach.
“I’ve actually been called mini Mick before, because I am that tame tiger, so to speak. I know when to keep my mouth shut and know when to really highlight something that’s not going too well,” he said.
By Danny McCarthy