By Matt Fotia
How do you get consistency?
That’s the million dollar question for Waverley Blues coach Tom Langford, as he seeks to take his side to the next level when local football returns to the East.
Runners Up in 2019, the Blues have been up and down throughout the opening seven rounds of the 2021 season, sitting 4-3 and in third spot on the Division Three ladder.
The positives include 139 point and 67 point thrashings of Scoresby and Fairpark, along with two 20+ point victories over East Burwood and Whitehorse.
Losses to Donvale and Glen Waverley by under a goal and a 10 goal loss to Ferntree Gully.
Langford said there were a number of reasons behind his sides sporadic form when interviewed on EFNL Sunday (23/5).
“It comes down to a few things, firstly we’re incredibly young and inexperienced, we’ve got a few really old blokes and then not a whole lot in-between, so with young players you’re going to naturally get some inconsistencies,”
“The second part of that is that we’ve got a whole lot of new players in the group, I think at the moment we’ve played 31 players and 10 debutants,”
“So, a lot of new faces within the group and unfortunately it’s taken awhile to gel and I’m sure it’ll take a bit longer, but we’re pretty happy with the way we’re going despite the obvious inconsistencies.”
One area of the Blues game which has been a big focus for the former Port Melbourne, Tasmania, Richmond VFL and West Adelaide player is the clearances, after Donvale dominated the stat in their shock Round One win over the Blues.
“In Round One when we lost to Donvale in a convincing manner, I think we only lost by a few points but we were absolutely smashed in that area of the game and deserved to lose by more in my opinion, so it’s been a strong focus for us since then,”
“I think it’s been a real personnel battle for us, once we can get our best players (inside mids) in that area we’ll be very competitive, but unfortunately we’ve struggled for depth in that department, so it’s an area to continue to improve.”
Langford arrived at Mount Waverley Reserve with an incredible football CV, with time at quartet of aforementioned State League clubs, as well as periods with Sorrento in the MPNFL, Woorinen in the Central Murray FNL and Gordon in the Central Highlands.
His connection to the Blues was that of club legend Paul Savage, who after initially retiring in 2018, played his 250th senior game for the Blues prior to the statewide lockdown, in an incredible achievement.
Langford waxed lyrical about his assistant coaches abilities.
“He’s been unbelievable,”
“He’s a playing assistant coach and was probably the one connection I had with the club prior to taking the role,”
“He was essentially retired in 2018, came out of retirement to fill in for the reserves, so it’s remarkable he’s playing the type of football he has,”
“We’ve put him in the ruck as a six foot one ruckman, or playing through the middle or down forward, wherever he is, he’s having an impact,”
“He’s just so clever, uses the ball really well, he’s such a crafty player.”
“250 games of senior football at any level is ridiculous.”
Between Savage and Langford there is a mountain of football knowledge and experience, which will come in handy as they look to take the club up the EFNL pyramid.
The situation Langford found himself in when taking the role was an interesting one, after the unexpected parting of ways between the club and Bryce McGain following the 2019 season, with a decision to be made on how he approaches it, should he implement his own brand on the group, or build on what McGain had started?
“Obviously you’re inheriting a group that’s had somewhat relative success,” Langford said about the conundrum.
“I think there has been a large turnover of players, so I think from that respect we’ve been able to start fresh in terms of a culture build,”
“But also tapping into what was built prior to me becoming coach, so it’s been a tough one,”
“From my point of view though it’s been great, I’m inheriting a group that is clearly on the right track already with individuals driving those standards and then hoping to bring whatever knowledge whatever I’ve gained to try and improve that.”
“It’s a great position to be, where I can just tweak little things to try and continue to develop the group.”