YOUNG GUNS: Edgeworth’s Bailey Garland, Tyson Jackson, coach Damian Zane, Samuel Maxwell, Joshua Low and Will Bower. Picture: Marina NeilDamian Zane wasn’t sure he had the energy to coach the Eagles again after last season.
And looking back, Zane believes he lost his identity as a coach in a third premiership-winning campaign, which ended with his first grand final loss in three tries.
But a renewed focus on youth development not only reinvigorated Zane but sparked what must be his, and perhaps the club’s, greatest victory.
After losing regular starters Keigo Moriyasu, Kieran Sanders, Brody Taylor, Keanu Moore andAyden Brice in the off-season, and Bren Hammel before that, the Eagles recruited ex-Jets Youth players Tyson Jackson and Mitch Dobson and striker Jamie Byrnes.They picked up Mariners veteran Josh Rose mid-season but also lost No.1 goalkeeper Nate Cavaliere to the Victorian NPL, where Taylor, Brice and Moore now play.
Many gave the Eagleslittle chance of another premiership. In the end, they wrapped it up with a round to spare and regardless of what happens this weekend, they will win the title by thebiggest margin of the Zane reign.
The rise of young players like Jackson, Adam Cawley, Samuel Maxwell, Bailey Garland, Will Bower and keeper Joshua Lowto fill the void has been Edgeworth’s key to success. Zane said that came from putting reward for hard workbefore reputations.
“It’s having faith and believing what your eyes do see,” Zane said.“For so many years you talk about this player or that player, but what do your eyes see?You see thoseyoung boys in training, but there’s a lack of faith in them.
“I set the tone for training early on, and I believe we train as hard as any team, and when the young boys do well at training,I’ve got every faith to give them a chance.
“If the intensity isn’t there at training, you are probably less inclined to give them a chance because you’re not sure how they’re going to go.
“It’s just an absolute faith in how we train, that’sthe big key.I have full belief the next guy is going to come in and do a job. Idon’t care what their name is.”
Zane was excited about where the Eagles’focuson youth over experienced recruits or importshad taken him and the club.
“I lost my own identity as a coach last year a bit and was man managing rather than improving young players,” he said. “Every coach is different, but that’s my identity as a coach.
“I think I needed that change. I probably learnt who I am as a coach. I enjoy having that core group with a blend of youth through it andI need to follow that path, and that’s where the club wants to go as well.
“Look at the guys we’ve passed on to better leagues, and a couple onto the Jets Youth. That’s exciting and maybe one day they will come back.
“I think our club has found a bit of an identity. This is the club we’re going to be.”
“We’re a growing area, Cameron Park is booming.”
“It’s just a special club and we’re on a really good path, so it’s a good place to be.”
He said his squad“just work their socks off and deserve everything they get”.
“I didn’t count us out of it, but I thought we’d have to start well and luckily enough we did,” he said of the premiership season.
“And to turn at the halfway point in front, I thought we might be able to hold on, but a few weeks out from the season we weren’t thinking about winning the premiership.
“But there’s no substitution for hard work. It’s an old school thought, but it’s still relevant in the modern game.
“And they play for 90 minutes and often it takes that win a game. It’s not luck. They are mentally tough.”