PREMIERSHIP winning coach Troy Coates said the team’s response to so many challenges made the 2019 Bendigo Bank Bendigo Football Netball League season one of his most memorable.
Coates added to an impressive tally of premiership wins on Saturday as Storm fought to achieve a 14-point win against against Eaglehawk at Queen Elizabeth Oval.
“I couldn’t be prouder of this group,” Coates said from the grandstand.
“The way we able to bounce back from last year’s grand final loss and respond to a fierce challenge from Eaglehawk today says a lot about this team and the club.”
Coates said the 22 who took to the field were superb, as were those who missed out on a grand final berth but played their role in the club’s run of 19-1 to claim the Bendigo Advertiser premiership cup.
The playing coach also praised Storm’s supporters.
“There was plenty of noise, especially in that last quarter.”
He reserved special mention for one of the club’s most loyal fans.
“Grant MacDonald could not be here today. This one’s for you.”
Throughout an illustrious playing career which has taken in Kerang, Eaglehawk, Nightcliff, and Strathfieldsaye, Coates has played in 15 grand finals.
“There was a lot of success at Kerang, but this win means so much,” Coates said.
For the coach it was not just about the grand final, but the mission which began a year earlier when Storm was defeated in the grand final by Eaglehawk.
“There were a lot of challenges along the way and pressure to perform, especially in a grand final,” he said of an individual and team focus.
Coates took charge in 2018 after a brilliant era for the club in which Darryl Wilson was coach of premiership teams in 2014, ’15 and ’17.
There was no massive recruiting spree after last September’s disappointment.
“Harry Conway and Caleb Sheahan returned to the club, but the goal was to back in the players we already had.”
Storm had stars such as Lachlan Sharp, Kellan Smith and Shannon Geary chasing a fourth premiership, and young guns Bailey Henderson, Lachlan Gill, Hunter Lawrence, Lachlan Ratcliffe, Caleb Sheahan and William Wallace aiming for their first.
Two of the team’s most influential players, Bryce Curnow and Hugh Robertson also marked their first premiership with Storm.
A brilliant match for Curnow as a key forward or key defender earned the Nalder Medal as best afield.
Storm’s fighting quality was to the fore.
“To go down last year and then lose Sam Heavyside (AC Joint) five minutes into the game brought back memories of a similar situation (Bryce Curnow’s 2018 grand final injury).”
Heavyside’s ability to win at stoppages and set up many attacks was a major strengths in Storm’s run all season.
His play meant he was joint runner-up for the Michelsen Medal as the league’s fairest and best player.
Although Storm led by 35 points at three quarter-time, there were many anxious moments for the coach, players and supporters in the final term.
“Eaglehawk really had us under the pump in the last quarter… they are a quality side,” Coates said.
“Our boys had something to prove today to not only ourselves and supporters, but also the league that we could stand up on the big stage.”
Off-field, Storm had a quality coaching panel that included Luke Freeman, Shane Davis, Darryl Wilson, Brett Fitzpatrick, and Luke Monaghan as coaching development manager.
“They have all done so much for the club. There is so much experience they bring to the club.
“The future is bright,” he said on a day where Storm won the seniors and reserves titles.
Storm was preliminary finalist in the under-18s football competition.
On-field there will be at least one change to Storm’s line-up for 2020 as victorious captain Kallen Geary announced his retirement after Saturday’s game.
Storm is also on the search for a new senior coach.
On the footy field, Coates has played as a rover, wingman, half-forward, forward pocket and more.
From next February he takes on a more important role as wife Danielle is expecting the couple’s first child.
Coates is yet to decide on his playing future.
“All of my focus was on this season and this day,” said Coates who achieved a win-loss tally of 36-5 at Storm.
A fourth senior premiership in just six years says a lot about Strathfieldsaye Storm’s on-field and off-field strength, culture and desire to keep getting better.
Since it’s first match in the Bendigo FNL on April 11, 2009, Storm has achieved a remarkable run of success and played in six of the past seven senior grand finals.
The reaction of players and supporters at the final siren and in the rooms showed just how much the win meant and was in stark contrast to a year ago.