Thursday, September 9, 2021

Tommy Fotak wins his first league title as a coach with Eagles

Photo:  Tommy Fotak (left) on the Eagles bench at Clare Street. [PlessPix] 

New Town White Eagles won both the Southern Championship and Southern Championship 1 league titles this year with a couple of games still to play.

This was a fantastic achievement for the club, which celebrated their 60th anniversary this year and which is aiming to qualify one day for the NPL Tasmania competition.

Tommy Fotak, 42, the senior coach at the club, has a fine pedigree as a player, but this was his first success as a coach.

Adam Shackcloth coached the Championship 1 side and also won the title.

I interviewed Tommy Fotak this week.

Walter Pless:  Which clubs did you play for?

Tommy Fotak:  I played at Olympia, White Eagles and Hobart Zebras.

WP:  Is this your first title as a coach?

TF:  Yes it is

WP:  Have you won titles as a player?

TF:  Yes.  The only title I didn't win as a player was the Senior Men's Summer Cup.  I won everything else at senior and reserves level.

WP:  What points would you highlight about this title win?

TF:  I'd point out that both the reserves and seniors won their titles, and both did it in a similar fashion.  We have very similar win loss records, goals for and goals against numbers, and it shows there's a way we want to do things and we are trying to do it at all levels.  Both teams have scored over 70 goals so far but we've also ground out wins when we have had to.

WP:  What was the biggest problems you faced as a coach this year?

TF:  Nothing immediately springs to mind as having been particularly difficult, but player selection was a challenge often.  With such a strong group, trying to get the right balance each week, including giving us coaches weapons from the bench across the squads was challenging.  You have a guy like Monty Pilkington who has had an absolute stand-out year and is banging goals in for the reserves but his chances in the first eleven were rare because they were all playing well and performing and getting results.  Every time he was asked to step up he did a fantastic job.  Jamie Vernon, the same.  Every time he was asked to do a job he did it.  It is that club and team first mentality that meant we were successful this year across competitions.  It's a credit to the players.

Photo:  The New Town White Eagles senior squad with coaches, support staff and sponsors. [PlessPix]  

WP:  What were the positives in the title success?

TF:  I could go on for a very long time!  The two league titles, obviously.  The goals for and against columns.  The fact that we had goal scorers all over the park.  The camaraderie of the group.  We had a lot of new faces compared with recent years and the way they settled in was fantastic.  The club and team first mentality.  The individual improvement in players, in particular Olly Johnstone and Monty Pilkington.  The big one for me is how we continually improved as a group.  Any team that took points off us faced a better version of us the next time and we won those games.

WP:  Where to from here for you and the club?

TF:  We've got two games of the season left.  We want to finish those strongly, and enjoy the success of the year and then prepare for next year.

WP:  What will you and the club do now, given that there doesn't seem to be any promotion or relegation procedures in place?

TF:  The club will keep working towards its goal of being an NPL club again, so we'll continue to improve our women's and men's programs.  We'll get junior and youth programs up and running.  We'll improve off field where we need to, too.  Without the State league for us, one thing I'd personally love to see is if we can get the concept of the White Eagle Sports Club back.  Can we get some summer sports associated with the club?  Can we get some other winter sports like netball or basketball associated with the club?  You gave me this idea when you mentioned it at the sixtieth anniversary dinner.

WP:  Do you have any advice for Football Tasmania in regard to rostering and other aspects of the Championship set-up?

TF:  I don't have the context that people there do so I can't offer advice.  From a feedback perspective, I would love it if they could reconsider the rostering.  We didn't play Kingborough for the first time until round 19 and then we play them again in round 22, the last one.  We played Olympia twice in four weeks.  We had played both South Hobart and Beachside twice by the halfway mark of the season.  It's a really tight competition and maybe that is due to the rostering and it might have helped or hindered us at times, but if you play a team twice in quick succession and they are in a purple patch or have got injuries it can make a difference.  I know with managing the NPL games as well it is challenging.

Photo:  Eagles players celebrate a goal by Luke Huigsloot (second from right). [PlessPix]  

WP:  Can this team go further?

TF:  Absolutely!

WP:  Are you looking to recruit in the off-season if you stay at the club?  Are you, in fact, staying at the club?

TF:  Our philosophy is that everyone is welcome.  We don't go out and actively recruit, but if people express an interest, we engage with them and we encourage them to come and see what we're about.  If people are reading this and their interest is piqued, get in touch!  I think any of the players we had join this year would say it was worth it.  I intend to stay at the club.  They have a plan and that includes a coaching succession plan.  We'll chat at the end of the season and see where we are on that path and where I fit in.

WP:  Would you be in the market for an NPL coaching position?

TF:  No.  I'd love to coach at the highest level for sure, but I can't travel and I can't take three trainings a week which, I think, most clubs do or expect at the moment.  The reason we have been successful this year is because of all the heavy lifting everyone else has done for me, particularly Adam Shackcloth, Stef Sikora, Grant Nutting, Stevan Vernon, Michael Voss and Paul Palmer.  It's because of them I got to do what I'm good at to the best of my ability.

Photo:  Andy Clark, the Eagles skipper, in action against University at Clare Street. [PlessPix]


Anonymous said...

Congrats Tommy and all at the club
Not quite sure the club didn’t go and recruit Whitehall Cox Fagg huighsloot heggie etc maybe they just felt the draw to clare street !!!

julian p said...

Well done Tom. A deserving result