Wednesday 23 March 2011

New Brisbane Lions Reserves coach Nathan Clarke is hoping his experiences as an AFL player, and in Canberra, will help his young charges in the NEAFL season.

A Sunshine Coast product, Clarke came off the rookie list to play six senior games for the Brisbane Lions at a time when the club was flush with talent in the early 2000s.

After being de-listed, he was a player and coach in the ACT for six years.

“I guess I’m unique in the sense that I’m probably the only coach at the club who has been delisted and didn’t go on to play a couple of hundred games,” Clarke said at yesterday’s NEAFL season launch.

“From that point of view I can symapthise and empathise with guys who are going through tough times, not getting a game or struggling to make it.

“The other thing is that I coached in Canberra for five years and know the other clubs and the good players.”

A person of outstanding character, Clarke has also recruited two quality individuals as assistants.

Former North Brisbane teammate Matthew Smith and ex-Southport star Clint Watts, who were both an integral part of the coaching panel at Morningside last season, are now with the Lions.

“They are two good young coaches have certainly been handy acquisitions,” Clarke said.

The investment in the reserves is a far cry from previous seasons when a number of assistants were rotated through the coaching role.  

“The club in its review in the off season decided that the reserves were something that needed to be looked at fairly strongly,” Clarke said.

One outcome of the review was an alliance with the Western Magpies to supply top-up players, rather than trying to source them from all around the State as in previous years.

“It was unfortunate to see the Magpies drop out (of the State League) but it opened up an opportunity for us to support and have an alliance with those guys,” Clarke said.

“That alliance still provides a pathway for the young fellas out in the western suburbs of Brisbane to play at the highest level they can.

“We’ve had 10 or a dozen sessions with the Magpies guys and had our first combined session a couple of weeks ago. The enthusiasm of the guys was fantastic.

“Hopefully it leads to us being a bit more competitive.”

With five former AFL Canberra teams and eight ex-QAFL teams in the new NEAFL, Clarke suspects his home State sides might have the advantage in cross-over games.

“It’s hard to know even having played in both competitions,” Clarke said of trying to choose the stronger. “I think at this stage the Queensland competition appears to be a fraction stronger.”

Photo: Nathan Clarke addresses his charges during the Club Aid Trophy. Courtesy Tim Size.

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