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Get To Know Our Colts Coach - Simon Bergin

Wednesday, March 18, 2020 - 10:05 AM by Matt Ogg

You can’t beat passion when it comes to coaching the youth, and that is something Simon Bergin has in abundance, particularly when sharing his knowledge with the Swan Districts Colts side.

With a strong start to the 2019 season before being knocked out of the first finals game, Bergin believes that his side has the depth and raw talent to go further this year.

Just before the mandatory WAFL shut down, we caught up with Simon to talk about the Colts side and his expectations and goals for the Optus 2020 WAFL Premiership Season.

How did you first get involved with Swan Districts?

About 5 or 6 years ago I started as a Development coach with the 14’s, as a line coach. I put my hand up to work alongside a great coach named Steve Thomson, worked with him in the 16’s, and really enjoyed my time learning under him. I was then lucky enough to coach the 16’s, which are now the ‘Futures’ for a number of years. I then took on a line with the Colts and coached the midfield group. When Greg (Harding) took on the Talent Manager role at the club in 2019, I was able to get the opportunity to coach the Colts group. So this is my second year coaching the Colts. It’s been a good journey so far. Good fun and lots of learning.

Have you only ever coached at the Swans?

It’s the only WAFL club I’ve coached at. I’ve coached at an amateurs club, but other than that it’s been through development at Swan Districts.

Would you want to take on coaching as a career?

I am a school teacher and am really enjoying that. It’s great working with kids. My passion is football as well, so teaching and working with youth is something I’m really enjoying at the moment. One day I’d like to potentially get into coaching adults, but at the moment I have a good balance with teaching full-time and coaching part-time. I’m really happy where life is at and coaching part-time is great. I think a lot of people would love to work full-time in footy, but I’m really wrapped with where I am teaching right now too.

What subject(s) do you teach?

Last year I started a football specialist course and am currently teaching the year 9’s and 10’s that program at the school. Previous to that, I taught a range of different subjects.

Did you play football yourself?

I played a little bit of country footy, but nothing of too high a standard. I have always loved the game, especially analysing and learning from it, and really enjoy the coaching side.

What is the Colts side looking like this year?

On paper our team looks pretty good. This year we’ve probably got a little more depth than last year and have some real talent in the team. I’m wrapped with our preseason, it’s really been great so far. Last year we won the first 7 in a row and had a strong start to the season. I guess what Colts footy is really about is developing players. Last year we had a number of players play League footy, a couple get drafted and some state players. I think this year the group is just as good, even though it’s a little bit younger. The ‘Futures’ (16’s) coming in last year were a talented bunch, so we now have some really talented 17 year olds. There are also a couple of top end kids that will more than likely play some senior footy early, depending on the balance of that team. We’ve got a number of PSA kids which would probably fit into our best team but won’t be available. They’ve all been training super.

Do you have many new Colts coming in to the squad this season?

The Futures will have a few more games remaining so the majority of them will play the Futures out and then the ones that are probably physically ready to come into the Colts program will get an opportunity later on in the year.

On the flip side, do you have many going up to play in the Reserves and League sides?

There are a number of boys training as 18 and 19 years old’s with the seniors. Ideally the 19 year olds will stay up there but potentially some will come back down. There are some 18 year olds that have been training with the seniors; Zane Trew, Denver Grainger-Barras, Ty Sears and Jamison Ugle, and hopefully in some capacity across the year we can get them ready to play senior footy either early or later on in the season.

The Colts won 7 straight to start 2019, then including the first week of finals only won 1 of the last 10 games. Is this something you discuss with the boys to avoid it happening this coming season?

The good thing about coaching Colts footy is that you’re not judged so much on your win/loss ratio. It’s honestly about developing players, making them ready and getting them prepared for senior footy, to play lots of games for Adam (Pickering – league coach) and the senior squad down the track. Losing the games we lost last year, yeah it’s always disappointing because you go out there to win, we lost a lot of close games. If we’d pinched one extra game, we would have had the double chance. It was very tight. Games early fell our way and games late fell the opposite way. It was disappointing for the boys, they obviously wanted to play deep into finals footy and so did I, but the ultimate goal is getting players drafted or playing senior footy.  

What are you doing differently this year than you did last year?

We’ve been a lot more explicit this year with our training, by breaking the game right down and being really exact with our fundamentals. We’re putting conditioning in to games in drills and trying to get the boys to make more decisions on the spot. We’ve modified our training ever so slightly this year and the coaching staff have been super taking that on. We’re wrapped with how we’ve started. We played one preseason game last week against East Perth and we lost by a point or something. There’s a lot to work on but we are happy with how we’re looking for Round 1.

So is getting Colts playing League footy the main goal for you this year?

Our main goal is to get kids playing senior footy in some capacity in their journey at Swan Districts, as well as helping them love playing footy. My KPI’s are simply based on developing kids to get drafted or play senior footy. Winning games is just a bonus.

The Colts have made finals every year since 2014. Do you feel any pressure to keep this run of finals appearances going for the club?

No. Again, winning is great and everyone plays or coaches to win, but as a Colts coach you are very lucky that you don’t get judged on win/loss. It’s all about player development. For example, East Fremantle Colts last year didn’t make the finals, and if they had they would’ve won the grand final. They had a number of players who were drafted and a number who were playing state and senior footy. They clearly had the strongest list in the comp and didn’t make finals.

With Colts players mixing between the Reserves and League, how do you keep consistency when they are playing in your side?

What’s been great has been working with Adam (league coach), Phil Smart (football manager) and Greg Harding (talent manager) to form as much as we can a Colts, Reserves and League one club mentality, where we are all on the same page. We are lucky enough to all train at Steel Blue and we are lucky enough to share thoughts and ideas and rub shoulders most of the time throughout training. So as a club, we really want to just develop our players.

It must be rewarding to see these kids develop and progress in their careers, having helped coach them?

Yeah, it’s great to see. I guess through the year for 18 year olds there is stress and anxiety from school and life and they just want to get drafted. For us as a group here, we get excited when a kid plays senior footy, which is the aim of development footy at the club.

Are there any players that supporters should look out for on-field this season?

Yeah for sure. There are a lot of 17 years olds that are good young players and have really raw talent. I think that’s what is exciting about Colts footy, there is a zoning rule which opens the ground right up and allows young kids to run and carry the ball and play some exciting footy.

There’s a young boy, Jamison Ugle, who is exciting to watch. The two boys training with the senior squad, Zane Trew and Denver Grainger-Barras, they’ll be worth watching and keeping an eye on in senior or colts footy. There’s a tall, growing boy with red dreadlocks named Kaedyn McPartlan and young tall Brodie Morris from Bunbury. It’s really exiting watching tall kids. They’re really raw, and hopefully you’ll see them progress in their footy and get better across the year.

I think that’s what will be exciting to watch is to watch one of these kids in round one, and then watch them again in round 15 and see their development and growth over the 15 weeks. There is a number of good kids with great personalities and I will be watching for the way they progress across the season.

(This article was written prior to the WAFL COVID-19 shut down)