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By Matt Fotia

Knox have replaced outgoing coach Wayne Van Der Ross in quicktime, with the recently relegated Falcons signing ex Hawthorn defender Brendan Whitecross as their coach for 2021 and beyond. 

The Falcons and Van Der Ross parted ways after the club decided to open up the role for applications despite the fact Van Der Ross had not been able to coach a game for the Red and Black since taking over at the end of 2019.

Knox were due to play in Division Two this season after they suffered their second successive relegation in 2019, finishing bottom of a tight Division One with six wins and a percentage of 84.99.

Van Der Ross’ successor had begun the year involved at North Melbourne, where he had served as a development coach in 2019, but due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, his time at the club was cut short.

Whitecross, who kicked 45 goals for Hawthorn in his 111 game career, had no initial plans of ending up as the senior coach of a community club but was persuaded to give the prospect a go by those he respects.

“I was tossing up for awhile whether or not footy was something I wanted to continue to be involved in after leaving North (Melbourne), but after talking to people I’ve used as mentors and people I trust in the footy community I got the advice to give it another crack, potentially at local level, to try and find the love and passion for the game back there.”

Given he has been away from the community game for almost 15 years, Whitecross was wary not to rush a decision like this and begun doing his own research into the 2017 Division Two Premier before agreeing to become its main man in 2021.

The key factors that swung the pendulum in the Falcons favour was the family atmosphere -Whitecross has a wife and two children – and the investment the club has in its people.

He’s also very aware that he wont be able to relax just because he’s stepped down a level.

“No matter what level of footy you’re playing or coaching I don’t think it’s ever going to be relaxed, but I’m certainly looking forward to getting back to community level footy,”

“After talking to some people that I do know they said that Knox was in the hunt (for a coach) and I ended up having a really good chat with them and the more I spoke to them and investigated the footy club, the more it seemed like it would be a really good fit,”

“That’s one of the biggest reasons I chose Knox over some other clubs, the fact that they seemed to be in the best position when it came to those matters.”

“It’s been almost 13 or 14 years since I left that level of football(local/community) and I’m really looking forward to getting back, investing in a footy club that’s invested in its people and where they want to get to,”

“That’s one of the biggest reasons I chose Knox over some other clubs, the fact that they seemed to be in the best position when it came to those matters,”

“They (Knox) want to get back to having success and potentially pushing towards Premier Division again and I saw that as a really good opportunity for me to not only help get the football club to where they wanted to be, but also to help some of these players that might want to push on with their careers.”


Posted by Knox Football Netball Club on Wednesday, 29 July 2020

His knowledge of the EFNL is limited, Whitecross hails from Queensland where he was taken with the 29th pick of 2007 draft, but has heard from former Box Hill teammates and alike that the standard is one of, if not the, best standards in the local game.

So rather then come out boasting about the brand of football his new charges will play in 2021, Whitecross remains coy on the subject, preferring to see what tools he has at his disposal before he starts designing his new project.

“I’d love to chat to as many players as I can over the next couple of months and find out what sort of team they think they are, because at the end of the day I’m driven by what cattle I’ve got,”

“I’d like to think we’ll play with some run and carry but at the end of the day until I can scope out what I’ve got it’s a bit up in the air,”

“I might be able to be easily convinced to play whatever style they want at the moment.”


In other EFNL coaching news, Division One finalists Lilydale are on the lookout for a new coach after Ben Neagle stepped away from the role due to mounting work and family commitments.

Neagle had successfully steered the club to finals in the last three seasons, with the highest point a Grand Final appearance in 2018.

In a post on the club’s Facebook page Club President Anthony Simmons thanked Neagle for all his work over the past five season at the helm.

“You have been an inspiration to all with your unflagging optimism and team spirit as Senior Coach of the Club and we appreciate how you have guided our young playing group.”

The way you have set about implementing the clubs chosen direction to “support and play our local/junior talent” has been exemplary.”
“Fielding a team that is comprised of players almost all of whom have come through our juniors is a point of pride for all at the club.”
“Your positivity and enthusiasm will be missed.”

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