Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Nick Owen is the new man at the helm of Ulverstone FC

Photo: Nick Owen is third from the left at the rear in this team photo of South Hobart. Mathew Rhodes is in the back row, extreme left, and Bret Anderton is in the back row, extreme right. [PlessPix]

Nick Owen, 31, is the new coach of Northern Premier League club Ulverstone. He takes over from Kim Rigby as senior coach.

Nick is the son of Phil and Kerry Owen. Phil played for Australia at under-16 level and scored the only goal when Australia beat New Zealand 1-0 in 1964.

His uncle, Erik Owen, is another former great of the Tasmanian game.

Phil and Erik were two of the best players of their generation and they had distinguished careers with Rapid and Juventus.

Nick’s own playing career was promising, but an ankle injury limited his time at the top with South Hobart. He had one of the most powerful shots in the local game and was an outstanding talent.

I interviewed Nick following his recent appointment as Ulverstone’s senior coach.

Walter Pless: Tell me about your playing history.

Nick Owen: It is all a blur now, but my junior years were shaped by Chris Hey as part of both the Northern Suburbs rep teams and also the Academy team in my early teens. In 1993 and 1994, I was selected in the State U/14 and U/15 squads but had to withdraw due to an ankle injury both times. In 1995 I was selected in the U/16 State team coached by Bret Anderton. This time the ankle held up well and I managed to play every game, scoring the equalising goal in a 1-1 draw with Queensland.

In 1996 I joined Bret at South Hobart, playing my first senior game in round 1 up front with Danny Prestage. In 1997 I took out the Senior Best and Fairest which would have to be the high point of my playing history as it was around this time that my ongoing ankle problems started to limit the quality and quantity of my training.

I left South and followed Bret to Christian United a few years later as I felt, at the time, that I wasn’t going to learn any more from the newly appointed coach, Nathan Robinson, who played at the club during my time. I don’t mind admitting now that I probably would have learned a great deal from Nathan had I stayed. His record as a coach is impressive.

The years are a bit of a blur after winning a Div 1 title with Christian United. I returned to South Hobart for a year where I was a part of the Reserves Summer Cup winning team, scoring 2 goals in the final. I then spent most of the rest of the season on the bench for the senior team as it was my goal for that year to score one more goal playing senior football. I managed this in a game against DOSA.

I also spent a year at Metro during my first year of University in 2004. After graduating from University, I moved to Ulverstone High School for work. I played for Ulverstone SC, mainly in the reserve team during 2008 and 2009, taking out the Reserve Best and Fairest in 2009. It was after this year that the ankle injury finally ended my playing days

My two biggest influences were Bret Anderton and Chris Hey. These two men shaped the way I played and I think the way I coach will be reflective of them as well. I owe these two people more than I could repay.

WP: Where are you teaching and which subjects do you teach?

NO: Ulverstone High School – Grade 8 Maths, Science, English, Art and Drama

WP: Was a teaching position the reason you moved north?

NO: I moved north for Uni, then North-West for work.

WP: What is your coaching background?

NO: I coached South Hobart State League Reserves in 1998 or 1999, I can’t quite remember which year it was, but it was our third-string team as the club Div 1 team was considered our second team at the time. It was the year Mathew Rhodes coached the Div 1 side to the premiership. I coached Ulverstone Reserves in 2010 and, after finishing last the previous year, we missed out on the title by 1 point.

WP: Is coaching Ulverstone going to be challenge?

NO: Certainly. The club has changed so much in recent years. When Kim Rigby, the previous coach, started his stint he had players who would play three games in a row to make up numbers and they were consistently getting flogged at least 6-0. Kim’s efforts and commitment have put the club in a position where we have a squad that should make the top-4 and challenge for the title. The main challenge will be to get all the players on the same page so that we have a strong and happy team.

WP: What strategies do you have in mind?

NO: We have some excellent young attacking players and some solid defenders so, if the defence can be strong and consistent enough, then these attacking players should put us in with a shot at the title.

WP: What are the strengths and weaknesses of the northern league?

NO: The 9-team league is not ideal. If you are knocked out of the Lakoseljac Cup early then you can have the situation where you might have two weeks off in a row or maybe play three games in six weeks. Another team from Devonport would solve this issue. If Burnie is big enough for two teams, then so is Devonport. Also, most grounds are average at best and the councils don’t have it too high on their priority list to fix them.

One of the challenges for North-West clubs is players leaving to go to university. Nearly every year we lose a senior squad member to Hobart or Launceston. A strength of the North-West teams is the family atmosphere at the clubs. We love our club and don’t much like the other North-West clubs and I think this is a shared opinion within other clubs.

WP: What are the strengths and weaknesses of Tasmanian football?

NO: The Statewide Cup and the end-of-season top-4 have improved the equality between north and south. However, I don’t think this equality is extended when talking about elite teenagers. The elite young north and north-west boys and girls are required to travel or relocate to the south to be a part of the State squad. Due to playing in state squads, USC lost Joel Stone, Brayden Mann, Jeremy Walker and Jason Singleton for a year and this ultimately resulted in possibly losing Jeremy Walker for good (I wouldn’t send him home if he rocked up to preseason though!). This was also the case for Lucy and Georgia Foote. These kids weren’t allowed to even train with the club. Now, I can see that this is a fantastic opportunity for the players involved and it is probably what’s best for their football development, but the way clubs are excluded from the whole process is something that could be worked on.

WP: Do you see any promising youngsters on the horizon?

NO: Definitely. Ulverstone SC is currently in a position where I think South Hobart were in the late 1990s. We have a talented young senior team sitting about mid-table, but what we also have is a strong focus on developing youth. The stand-out youngsters would undoubtedly be Joel Stone and Brayden Mann.

Joel is an extremely skilful player who can bamboozle the best in the state with his touch and dribble. He also has the skill to finish with both power and placement, but I don’t think we see him shoot enough. His talents have not been seen at their full potential in the last two years, but he has trained in England with Chesterfield and Macclesfield and played matches against Preston North End youth and Tranmere Rovers youth. I will be playing Joel in an attacking midfield role and will be working on his positioning and passing.

Brayden is a naturally gifted striker who finishes better than anyone I’ve seen play in this state. He can create space for himself to get a powerful and accurate shot in and he consistently scores from free-kicks 18-30 yards out. He has understandably been approached by clubs around the state, but he has stated he would like to stay for one more year and try to win a title at USC before he tries to further his career on the mainland.

Other players under 18 who are right in the mix to play seniors this coming season are Will Cox-Haines, Sam Wood, Jason Singleton, Conor Meaney, Josh Laing, Harry Crocker, Tom Maine, Ryan Bennell and Dave Parry.

Liam Johnson is another talented youngster who I’m hoping to attract to the club. He has been playing in the state squad for the past year or two and in the few training sessions he attended he impressed with his skill and composure.

WP: What is the future of the game in Tasmania?

NO: In all honesty, I can’t see it much different than today. I would love to see a youth team play in a league with other A-League youth teams, but I can’t see the state sustaining its own A-League team. I would also like to see FFT employ a part-time scout who recommends youngsters for trials with A-League teams.

WP: Are you looking forward to meeting a southern side in the State-wide Cup possibly?

NO: We do play in the Steve Hudson pre-season cup, so there is a strong chance that we’ll meet a southern club before the season. Last year, we faced both Taroona and South Hobart in the pre season, beating Taroona and losing to South in the final. I think a game against my old coach Chris Hey might be an interesting challenge, or coming up against Beachside and possibly facing my good mate Bernhard Klasen.

WP: Who will win the northern league this year?

NO: Us of course! Our competition will come from a well-coached and organised Northern Rangers outfit. The four North-West teams will all have new coaches as far as I know, so it will come down to which coach gels with his players the best. I am aware of John Wheeler’s appointment as Somerset coach, but the Devonport and Burnie positions remain unfilled, or they are keeping their cards close to their chest.

WP: Who will win the southern league this year?

NO: I would like to see South dominate for a few more years yet. Their youth set up there is a credit to them and I hope John Barker and ‘Spinner’ Adkins are well pleased with the fruits of their labour. I remember players such as Bart Beecroft, Jonathan Lo, Tom Roach and Hugh Ludford attending holiday training camps at Wellesley Park when they were 12 and 13 years old and, to see them dominate now, is great for the club. I hear South stand to lose a few of these players for next year, but I’m sure the system has produced similar replacements.


Anonymous said...

I thought Nick didn't see benefits of futsal although he has named two players with a futsal background as his stars because of their technique.

Unknown said...

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Matthew rhodes said...

Best of luck nick for the coming season sure youll do fine .

Adam Lagerewskij said...

Congrats Nick, with your soccer knowledge id expect Ulverstone to super competitive next season, best of luck!

Paul said...

Well done Big nick!

Hopefully you do better with Ulverstone than you used to do at championship manager ;)

Anonymous said...

Owen will do a good job at Ulverstone. He has the right attitude and has seen some of the masters of junior development (Spinner Adkins, Brian Roberts, Tony Chaffey) in action.

Anonymous said...

Masters of junior development huh?? Take a junior central team, invite them on the Bega trip the next year (and sell the team to the media as a South Hobart team) and then work on them to join south on their return.

Oh well, whatever works I guess. It's one method that has proved very successful.

Yeah, I know, bitter and twisted. lol

Anonymous said...

Coaches appointed by all junior regional team's should not be allowed to coach at club level, especially when it is at the same age level (this is a major conflict of interest). This is not development, these persons are manipulating their "appointed positions" to harness the respective region's "talented players" or "team of talented players" for their own club's benefit. Have a think about the "bigger picture" re football in Tasmania, this action may be unconstructive and detrimental to the game.

Anonymous said...

Ulverstone will be competive, were this season. May push for top 4 but wont be champions.

Anonymous said...

actually it may be a good thing for the future of tasmanian football if they are good coaches? for example TIS?

Gomes said...

futsal is definitely not the reason joel and brayden are good. it's because they got quality coaching from franco, stu mac and bruce stowell. i'm not sure the boys have even been playing futsal for very long

Anonymous said...

anom 11.28 to have decent regional coaches we need people from clubs to coach them.
It would be great if all the regional teams had coaches who have experience from clubs as at least they know what they are doing.
So if they then get the kids coming along to there clubs at least they have invested something in there training and the kids wouldnt go to clubs if they didnt like the coaches

Phil Owen said...

......it is fairly obvious that Nick's patience, attitude, nature and disposition were inherited from his mother! Well done Nicko....Great article Walter.

Mathesis said...

This bloke possessed the most powerful shot in Tassie football and was just as powerful in the air. I remember him rattling a few goalkeepers with aerial challenges. A shame that such a talent never reached his full potential. I have no doubt that his footballing nous will be transferred in his new role. Good luck Nick!

Matt Hedge

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all the positivity! I would disagree that Joel and Brayden have a futsal background. They have only been playing it for a year or 2. Not sure that classifies as a futsal background.

Pre season starts in 6 days and I anticipate at least 20 at the first session. The boys are jumping out of their skin to start so if titles are won through enthusiasm and effort then we are a chance at the very worst.

Sam Cocks to Ulverstone... how do I get in touch with him? :)

Nick Owen

Anonymous said...

Joel was not coached by "the Boss". He went one better and was coach by frrrruncoooooooooo!

Anonymous said...

Singo is a good boy :)

Anonymous said...

Nick, If you want to get in touch with Sam i know walter has his mobile number.I do as well but not going to post it.He said its fine to ask walter....

Anonymous said...

Nick, why are you so keen on chasing Sam Cocks when you have such a large pool of young talented players at your disposal? My information is that Sam will be playing at Burnie if anywhere at all.