THE Griffith Swans have secured a double coup for next season, signing former Ovens and Murray veteran Brandon Mathews as senior coach and star midfielder Guy Orton for a further two years.
Mathews takes over the full-time coaching reins from Orton, who has opted to concentrate solely on playing for the remainder of his career.
Mathews, who joined Griffith this year but was restricted to just five games due to a persistent hip injury, has no senior coaching experience but played nearly a decade under celebrated Lavington mentor Tim Sanson, widely considered one of the best coaches in country footy.
“I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t think I could help people or make a difference,” he told The Area News.
“For me it’s not about me coaching the Swans, it’s about the Swans hopefully getting better and a bit more of a following and more people playing the game. It’s a pretty easy game if you can just work the basics out.
“I was lucky to have probably the best coach in country footy for a long time and you see how they did things and pick up some ideas. What (Sanson) got out of blokes was unreal.
“It doesn’t take a lot to teach people if they want to learn and that’s what Lavington was about when I was there – training was all working on skills and the basics.”
Orton’s re-signing ends speculation surrounding the future of last year’s Jim Quinn medalist, who will spend the off-season playing for St Marys in the Northern Territory Football League.
He said he was more than happy to step aside for Mathews, admitting he felt held back from his best football by the added responsibility of coaching.
“I can’t say it hasn’t affected me because it does – you’re concentrating on your game but there’s a lot going through your head,” Orton said.
“I’m really looking forward to going out there next year with no pressure, just playing footy.
“We’ve got enough on-field leaders in our team so to have Brandon on the sidelines doing the coaching I think will work well.
“But he won’t do everything – I’ve got a lot of knowledge he can draw from and there’s a lot of support around the town and in the club for him.”
The Swans started their 2013 RFL campaign full of hope and fuelled by the buzz surrounding Brendan Fevola’s one-off appearance for the club against Leeton-Whitton – but that hope quickly faded as the injuries piled up over the course of the season, with the side eventually finishing five games outside the finals.
President Jeff Harris said there was reason to be optimistic moving forward.
“It’s 100 years for the club next year, so that’s really a catalyst for 2014 to be a bit of a launching pad for us,” he said.
“From a footy club perspective we identified a non-playing coach might make it easier to control the on-field stuff. It’s going to take a bit off Guy’s shoulders and we’re confident Brandon is the right choice.
“He’ll be hard but fair. I don’t think there’ll be too much arguing with him, he commands a bit of respect from the boys, who understand what he’s done in footy and where he’s played.
“They’ll be keen to learn a bit off him.”
Harris confirmed Griffith is in ongoing discussions with an Adelaide-based ruckman for next year, while Mathews believes the Swans also require a key forward,
key backman and one more on-baller to become a force in the RFL.