Thursday 26 August 2010

David Lake, who celebrates his 100th game as coach of Mt Gravatt on Saturday, still has vivid memories of his first meeting with Vultures players and support staff at Dittmer Park in October of 2005.

A grand total of 31 people turned up.

“There were not even 20 players there –  I didn’t have enough to fill a side,” he quipped.

Lake, something of a football nomad who had spent three years as a player at Morningside in the late 1980s and coached at Springwood in the Pineapple Hotel Cup before his step up to the State League, certainly had a big task in front of him.

“There were a number of people there who wanted to tell me what was wrong with the place but they didn’t want to do anything about it,” he said.

At that stage even the ever-optimist Lake would have found it hard to believe that he would be at the helm of a premiership-winning Vultures outfit less than two years later.

“(Former president) Tony Furfaro was fantastic…one by one we moved the problems on,” Lake recounted.

Then Lake set about recruiting the best 10 under 18 players in Brisbane that he could convince to move to Dittmer Park. Current midfield star Mick Hamill, Melbourne wingman Rohan Bail, Caloundra and ultimately Fremantle rookie Chris Smith, and eventual solid VFL performer Simon Plummer were among them.

With home-grown juniors Albert Proud, Shaun Hampson and Gavin Grose also given opportunities, the young Vultures finished fifth and played off in the elimination final of 2006.

He had also managed to entice Brisbane Lions great Darryl White to the club to help foster the young talent. White lived locally, but the Vultures offered him the lowest amount of money of all suitors because they had little to spread around.

“At one stage early on, the club was asked to show cause why they should stay in the competition,” Lake remembered. “I thought ‘this is going to be a short coaching stint’.

“When I first met Darryl, because I had played in Darwin we found we had a bit to talk about and found we had a lot of commonalities of things in life that were important to us. We spoke for two or three hours and he said ‘I’ll play for you brother’.”

White was a key part of the premiership side in 2007, a year in which Lake and his coaching staff got the best out of a number of mid-range players and were led superbly by co-captains Gareth Dosser and Mick Stinear.

“They are two of the most exceptional human beings who I have been lucky enough to meet,” Lake said. “The ride was so good in 2007, so much fun from week to week, that it was almost an empty feeling when the siren went in the grand final because it was over.”

The Vultures were back in the grand final in 2009, making their way to the back day in September from the elimination final and nearly causing a boilover by beating red-hot favourites Morningside.

“We were so near yet so far – we’re trying to sell the understanding to the players that they don’t want to miss a moment of doing it anything other than right because they have a month of opportunity ahead of them,” Lakes said with his Vultures in a similar predicament to 12months ago.

Yet last year does not eat at him like 2008, when the Vultures were firm premiership favourites but exited the finals series with consecutive losses.

“I don’t think I’ll ever get over that,” he said. “We were so good for so much of the year and so bad for the short bit that counted.”

Lake, who credits former president David Reid teaching him the most valuable lessons in his time at Dittmer Park, will not give the past or his 100-game milestone a thought when he sits in the Giffin Park coaches box on Saturday for the Vultures’ elimination final against the NT Thunder .

“It’s not about me,” he said. “You don’t coach for personal milestones. I just want to try to provide an environment for blokes to excel and be at the top of their lives.”

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