Tuesday 10 August 2010

A day after his appointment to continue as Aspley coach next year, Russell Evans has hit the ground running.

An excellent communicator with a strong vision of how he sees the game developing in Brisbane’s northern suburbs, Evans is already locking in planning sessions and strategy meetings.

“We will have planning sessions in the next couple of months with football and administrative staff involved. You need both parties to be involved so you know you are singing from the same song sheet,” he said.

“We are organising group sessions with the players over the next 2-3 weeks to gain their feedback. We want to engage them in our future direction. We have a terrific bunch of players and they want to be part of a successful football club.”

Since taking over as caretaker coach in Round 9, Evans has been bedded down a solid defensive structure, increased the output of the midfield for longer periods of the game, and fine-tuned the forward line.

The end result has been four wins from eight games but more importantly, a competitive showing every week.

Kicking goals has been a major problem for the Hornets since they entered the State League at the start of 2009 and Evans has been particularly pleased with the output in the last fortnight.

“Three or four weeks ago we started working on the forward line and have kicked our two biggest scores in the last two weeks. A lot of it is making sure people understand their role in the puzzle,” he said.

He was quick to point out that the coach can only do so much, heaping plenty of praise on the playing group.

“It is not just me. The Copelands, Shirs, Evans,  Trewhellas and Sheahans are all making significant contributions to the development of our footy group.”

Evans added he had received great support from Gary Thompson and Garry Toye but is intent on bolstering the assistant coach numbers for next season.

“They have been fantastic help and we are on the hunt for two or three more high quality assistant coaches,” he said. “I can’t get to enough of the payers enough of the time myself. Loading up on support for our players is a big focus.”

The northern suburbs have provided a rich supply of talent to AFL level over the past decade and Evans is keen to ensure the best young players in region hone their skills at Aspley in the future.

“It’s a very exciting region. The development of juniors is critical to progressing Queensland football,” he said.

As part of that, Evans is determined to foster a strong relationship with all clubs in the region.

“We have got to start looking after the Sandgates, Windsor-Zillmeres and Kedrons and the kids up the (Sunshine) Coast,” he said. “We have got to have a strong focus on supporting all those clubs, not just taking their talented kids.

“We have to see ourselves as a regional club and take a much broader responsibility to developing kids in the region.

“We have got start to build a lot of trust with these clubs. If a kid from Sandgate comes across and doesn’t make it, then we respect them enough to let the kid go back and help Sandgate, rather than keep him at a lower level.

“There’s no ‘ifs and buts’ about it – we have got enough kids coming through our own system.

“We have done a little bit of work with some of the clubs in the area but we have got to expediate that.”

The Hornets suffered a mass snub of former Zillmere players before they entered the league, then endured a mass exodus of players at the end of their first year in the QAFL, which reaped a 3-15 win-loss record.

That won’t happen this time around, with the majority of recruits being locked in for next year and a strong emphasis being placed on retaining local youth.

While Evans is looking top up the playing strength with a couple of key position players, he is hoping a strong base will be built around the current outfit.

“Recruiting is important but you have got to add to your talent through local players, which hopefully long-term means you don’t have to recruit as much,” he said. “It’s exciting because we’ve got a good cycle of Under 18 kids coming through and there’s some great kids in the 16s as well.”

Evans was adamant that the Aspley Board and administration had been strong in their backing of his plans from the time he took the caretaker role mid-season.

“It needs to be made known that the administration has been fantastically supportive,” he said. “There has been nothing but support from them with a genuine desire to become a good, strong football club.”

Evans has a solid background in the game.

He played more than 50 SANFL games with Port Adelaide and West Adelaide from 1980 to 1988 and represented the SA Amateurs against the Victorian Amateurs.

His SANFL form was good enough one season to earn a call-up to a NSW State of Origin squad that featured the likes of Billy Brownless, although he missed final selection. His Broken Hill origins tied him to NSW.

Evans spent 12 years in the air force before becoming a specialist business advisor, where he works on team and leadership development.

“It’s all the same,” he said of his professional work being applied to football.

Evans was initially involved with the Aspley juniors through his two sons and coached the club’s Under 18 side for two years.

He had coached a A-Grade amateur level in Adelaide, and took the reins of the reserves at Aspley a month into this season.

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