Students of Parade College have been the welcome beneficiaries of the philosophies shared by two of the nation’s highest-achieving sportsmen who recently paid both the Bundoora and Preston campuses a visit.
Collingwood Premiership Captain Tony Shaw and Men’s Hockey Captain and Olympic and Commonwealth Games Gold Medallist Mark Knowles OAM generously shared their fascinating insights into their adopted sporting codes and what it actually takes to lead at the highest level.
At Bundoora, Tony Shaw reflected on his 88 matches through four seasons as Senior Coach and his 313-game career through 17 seasons before – an obvious highlight being the 1990 Grand Final victory and the Norm Smith Medal that came with it for best player afield.
“I’ve often been asked the question ‘What do you get out of coaching and what do you get out of playing?’. “Well coaches go through hell,” Tony conceded in his address to Year 9 Excel Super Coach students and Sports Academy students of Years 11 and 12.
“When I played the game I had a lot of problems with ability. I wasn’t quick, I couldn’t jump and I couldn’t kick far although I did have elite stamina and I could read the play. With coaching you hoped you could produce players who would become good people and that you did it for the right reasons . . . (but) there’s so much to it in terms of your relationships with players, with staff, with board and kissing backsides was never one of my stronger points and probably cost me in a lot of ways.”
In pondering the on-field period of his sporting life, Shaw acknowledged the appointment of Leigh Matthews as Collingwood Senior Coach as crucial to the turnaround of the team and indeed the club.
“Leigh Matthews was outside our culture. He didn’t have that Collingwood background, he came from Hawthorn and he brought everything he learnt at Hawthorn in without causing a ripple,” Tony said.
“Everybody knew how great a player he was, probably the greatest player who ever played, but he still had to prove himself as a coach, and he had to learn things.
“We didn’t make finals for three years under Leigh Matthews and we lost four finals under him before we won. It was a long road because he had to learn things to become a great coach and we had to learn with him – and it worked because we were so close, almost insular, and I was lucky enough to be captain under him for seven years.”
As an Ambassador for Tiger Turf which laid the multi-purpose pitch at the Preston Campus, Mark told Year 7-12 students of ACC hockey of his own hockey odyssey which took him from his hometown in Rockhampton to the world stage.
In recounting the time the Hockeyroos under Ric Charlesworth took gold in the 2004 Olympiad in Athens, Mark conceded: “The Olympics is the dream for any young kid, but I was 20 when I won Olympic gold and I didn’t really understand how important it was”.
“When I was 24, 28 and 32 and I didn’t win gold I knew how important it was.”
Mark’s achievements in the sport he embraced as a boy are too many and varied to detail here, but before taking the students on a personalised clinic at the campus he told them of what hockey meant to him, and how he felt in hanging up the stick at national level.
“Since retiring I haven’t felt like I wanted to train every night as I used to,” Mark said.
“That’s the biggest thing that changed for me - that since I’ve retired I’ve actually loved hockey more than I ever have.”