ON a scorching afternoon in Beaconsfield, new talent manager Sean Toohey — a former homicide squad detective and Sergeant with Victoria Police — witnessed his first game as part of the Eastern Ranges TAC Cup program; a win for the girls’ squad in the first round of the season against the Greater Western Victoria Rebels.
The vibe around the ground, and in the rooms after the match, was buoyant. Despite the Rebels challenging, the match always felt in the Ranges’ control. It is an attitude born of confidence, of knowing things are done the right way to ensure their players will be at their best, week in week out.
It is an environment that Toohey knows well, having come through the Eastern Ranges under-15s and 16s program; but coming back in a difference capacity has still provided a decent learning curve.
“I’m just getting used to a new environment, new people, new structures and just different ways of doing things. Which I find really exciting, and a good challenge,” Toohey said. “I’m a people person, and there’s so many good people working within our club and within our region — so that’s really exciting for me.”
Even though the 2018 season has yet to officially begin for the boys’ program, there are already whispers about players to look out for this year.
Inside midfielder Ben Cardamone, Defender/Midfielder Kye Quirk as well as forward Cody Hirst and midfielder Adrian Kalcovski are early front-runners to attract attention from AFL recruiters. This level of interest, at such an early point in the season, is nothing new for the Ranges, and Toohey’s role in keeping the players level-headed is vital.
“I’ll just try and continue that really good work of Len (Len Villani, former Eastern Ranges talent manager),” Toohey said. “I’ll aim to keep the players balanced, and help them understand what they’re striving for, and keep them focused on doing that. “I’m not here to reinvent the wheel, hopefully I can value-add to the programs with my different experiences. We do have a great record in this region for producing talent, and people, so I’ll really just try and continue on with the great work that Len has done over the last few years.”
In the last 10 years, the Eastern Ranges have consistently produced a decent sized crop of AFL quality players. This recent crop includes All-Australian calibre players Kade Simpson and Rory Sloane, as well as young guns Jonathon Patton, Tom Boyd and Christian Petracca.
The 2017 draft was no different, with a total of 10 Ranges players ending up on an AFL list. This production line of talent has not come about because of sheer luck, or some sort of geographical oddity that makes the eastern suburbs of Melbourne a breeding ground for young talent. It is because of a commitment from the club to helping young footballers become the best they can be.
“We obviously have people that identify talent very well, and get them into our programs, and once they’re in our programs our coaches and our high performance staff, our welfare staff, trainers, medical staff, all play their role and really just surround these young people with a great environment for producing talent,” Toohey said. “The players know that they can just come and concentrate on either; if they’re injured, getting their bodies right; or concentrating on what their individual program says they need to work on. “They have the confidence to be able to do that, and from what I’ve seen so far, it’s as good a program as you’ll find for this age group.”
Toohey hopes to impart some of his professional knowledge from the SANFL and Victoria Police into his work with the Eastern Ranges.
“I’ve had a pretty diverse range of life experience, due to the fact that I did work in Victoria Police,” he said. “I was seeing things that people in every day life don’t see…I suppose it’s really just trying to help guide our young athletes in the right direction, and steer them into making good choices. “Hopefully I’ll help them a little bit to influence their good decision making. We don’t want to just produce the best footballers that we can…we’re really about producing good people as well.”
Eastern Ranges will open their TAC Cup 2018 season against the Oakleigh Chargers on Saturday, March 24 at Ikon Park from 11am.