Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Tommy Fotak appointed as coach of Eagles

Photo:  Tommy Fotak at yesterday's announcement [Photo courtesy of New Town White Eagles]

Tommy Fotak was yesterday announced as the new coach of Southern Championship side New Town White Eagles.

Fotak will lead the club into its 60th anniversary year alongside newly appointed senior assistant Adam Shackcloth.

A former White Eagles player, Fotak was most recently NPL coach at Hobart Zebras. He returns to football after an absence focused on family and the operation of a successful Tasmanian technology company.

Photo:  Eagles president Grant Nutting (left) welcomes Tommy Fotak to the club [Photo courtesy of New Town White Eagles]

White Eagles president Grant Nutting explained:  “To have an individual of Tommy’s quality leading our club into its 60th season is extremely exciting. Alongside his technical attributes, Tommy brings with him great character and his appointment is significant step towards our club achieving great things in 2021 and beyond”.

Fotak said:  “I am really excited by the opportunity to build on the work that Dreamer [Andrew Leszczynski] and the coaching staff have done over the past seven years.

"Performances on and off the field demonstrate this is a club on the rise and that is a credit to Grant and the committee and everyone involved at Eagles.

Photo:  Assistant coach Adam Shackcloth (left) and Tommy Fotak [Photo courtesy of New Town White Eagles]

"I'm honoured to be entrusted with the responsibility to lead this group and the club in their anniversary year.

"I can't wait to get out on the track and get to work.  I encourage anyone that wants to be part of the journey to come along and get involved however they can."

Further coaching appointments and player signings are expected to be announced in the coming weeks.

Pre-season training will begin on Tuesday, January 12th, 2021.

Photo:  Eagles captain Andy Clark (left), with new coach Tommy Fotak and senior player James Vernon [Photo courtesy of New Town White Eagles]

I spoke to Tommy today about his coaching background and the task he now faces.

Walter Pless:  Which clubs have you played for?

Tommy Fotak:  I played a season with Olympia in the 1994/95 summer State League, but the bulk of my years were spent playing with Eagles and Zebras.

WP:  Which clubs have you coached?

TF:  At senior level, Zebras and now Eagles.

WP:  Have you won any trophies as a player, and as a coach?

TF:  As a player, I won the premiership with Eagles in 1998, Lakoseljac Cup with Zebras in 2003, and a premiership with Zebras in 2004.  These were in competitions that were considered the top flight at the time.  As a coach I haven't won anything at senior level yet.

WP:  Why are you coming back to coaching?

TF:  I've always enjoyed coaching and wanted to get back involved at some stage.  I see it as a way of contributing to community.  For football to be played competitively, we need coaches, referees, committees and match-day helpers, as well as players.  Coaching is my preferred way of being involved.  It also engages my competitive appetite!  Timing is a big factor.  I was thinking about what I would like to do if I could retire tomorrow and, no joke, what came to mind in terms of keeping me mentally active was coaching and keeping bees.  No time is ever perfect and I realised that I could do one of those things now, so why not?  I had really good conversations with Eagles and they understood my concerns about my time commitments with football, my business and my personal life and they were incredibly open about working with me to manage all that to try to ensure that we all get good outcomes.

WP:  What will your coaching philosophy be?

TF:  I went back and re-read my Coaching Manifesto I put together in 2013 when I first got involved in coaching at senior level.  It was a good reminder of the ideals I have when it comes to coaching and the expectations I have of myself and any group of players that I work with.  From a playing perspective, I prefer possession-based attacking football, but who doesn't?  I love tempo football, being able to take your foot off the gas, be composed, but when the moment is right, really apply pressure and intensity for sustained periods.  From a practical point of view, I want players and supporters of the club to be able to objectively see that the team and individuals  -  including myself  -  are continually improving, that we are always moving forward, not necessarily in a straight line, but forward nonetheless.

WP:  What do you hope to achieve at Eagles?

TF:  Ultimately, the title and promotion.  That's what is being asked of me and it's a fair challenge, and that's what I've joined to do.  That will be based on hard work and continual improvement.  If we don't win the title but we have improved by certain metrics, like total points or goal difference, then that is progress.

WP:  Why did you choose to go to a second-tier side?

TF:  In this case, the challenge of promotion is a reason, but for me, it's not really about tiers.  It's about where I think I can do my best work, where I think I fit and add value and where I think a club sees value in my efforts.  A big factor was the conversations we had around my time commitments in other facets of my life and how we can manage that as a club and coaching group.  Grant [Nutting] and the Eagles committee were really understanding and supportive and we all believe we have a setup where I can do my best work and deliver really good outcomes for the club.

WP:  How do to rate Tasmanian football at present?

TF:  This is a really nuanced question and any answer really depends on your perspective.  The game has tens of thousands of stakeholders and they each have different perspectives.  My daughter plays AFL and I would say that at a grassroots level football is streets ahead of AFL.  Our challenge is to turn those fields of grass into forests of trees, if I may wax philosophical for a moment.  Pragmatically, the game faces all the same challenges that other sports in this State face and I don't think we are doing any worse or better than them.  From my personal perspective, I think as a whole, it is in a transitional period and has been for some time.  This is not a criticism of any people in the game  It is due to societal changes that have occurred over the last twenty years.  To move out of that transition we need to look at our strengths as a sport and as a community and island State and aim for a future built on the unique value those vectors combined bring.  This is far easier to say sitting here than it is to achieve in reality.  Call me a starry-eyed optimist, but I do think it is achievable.

 Photo:  Tommy Fotak has big plans for Eagles [PlessPix]


Anonymous said...

Great appointment with Tommy. I wonder whether Albie, Benny and Sunday will go back to the club.
Surprised to see Adam as Tommy's assistant but best of luck as he should learn a lot.

Anonymous said...

great interview Walter

Anonymous said...

sounds like Adam will have an enhanced role, Tommy saying how he has time constraints and the Club's acknowledgement of this was a factor in him taking the job. Expect Adam will be the ever-present at training and Tommy taking match days? If so, not ideal. Have seen this before and doesn't work well as the season progresses.

On a player perspective, Eagles have steadily built a good group of players with a good culture. Past players, past their prime, are not necessarily what the Club needs at this time - not in the Senior team anyway.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 11.51am. You echo my thoughts completely. You have read between the lines and I think you are spot-on. Time will tell, but the crafting of those words was very deliberate and point in the direction you have indicated.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 11.51am and Anonymous 12-02pm, I'd say you're both on the money. The escape clause is already there. Either you are totally committed or not at all. Eagles should perhaps have thought this one through more closely. Andrew Leszczynski's departure is a huge blow and his replacement must be completely committed if the club is to carry on Dreamer's good work.

Anonymous said...

This could be the biggest draw card for players in a while with Tommy sorry Adam.
A fresh face in the coaching ranks is a good thing. I would say Eagles will be a new look team next season.
Best of luck.

Anonymous said...

11:51AM I also think you could be right but if it did fall apart do you think Adam has the compacity to take the senior group with limited experience other than playing.

Anonymous said...

That's a solid appointment. Dreamer and co have steadied the ship over the past few years and Eagle are back in a position to press forward.

The only knock is that he isn't a coach who has won a premiership or cup competition and that's what Eagle aspire to. It'll be a tough league to win.

Anonymous said...

@11.51AM - responding to 2.50PM
Limited compared with Tommy?
He did a good job with the Champ1 team this year. And he could look the players in the eyes and demand commitment.

Anonymous said...

Great appointment. I don't think Tommy has to improve Eagles too much as they are a very good team. Maybe a few getting old but they have some good young talent.
I also heard that Shane is coaching the women. That is also a good appointment as whether you like him or not he knows what he's doing. He's passionate about the players he coaches.
It well and truly looks like the ship has finally steadied at Eagles.
Congrats to all at the club for their appointments

Anonymous said...

In response to Anon 2.43PM, asking whether Adam had sufficient experience to step in for Tommy, I note the below content from Zebras' wiki record.

2016–2017: Peter Savill
2017: Tommy Fotak
2017–2018: Gabriel Markaj

Anonymous said...

Zebras Wki Managers listing and timing are actually incorrect - Tommy took over from Saville in 2017. Saville was appointed in 2017 and lasted only about 6 games. Tommy took over for the remainder of the season