Rod McPherson will take off his umpiring hat to coach the North Coast team. Photo: TREVOR VEALE 050611109A
Rod McPherson will take off his umpiring hat to coach the North Coast team. Photo: TREVOR VEALE 050611109A

From umpire to coach

By BRAD GREENSHIELDS

SUPERMAN would change from mild mannered reporter to saviour of the world by simply changing his gear in a phone booth.

Today, Rod McPherson is trying to change his identity just as quickly when he coaches the North Coast AFL's representative team at Fitzroy Oval.

You see, most Saturday's McPherson is not involved with a club in a playing or coaching capacity, but is actually head of the umpiring fraternity.

For each of the last three years, this change of identity has been the challenge the local AFL umpiring co-ordinator has needed to face when he has been at the helm of the representative team.

And he's saddling up for another stint of wearing his undies on the outside today when North Coast tackle the Summerland competition from the Lismore and Ballina areas.

But how does McPherson find the transition from umpiring the boys one week to coaching them the next?.

"I coached in Tassie before I came up here so I've been more familiar with coaching than umpiring," he said.

"It was probably more difficult when I went from footy to umpires."

While the North Coast AFL's representative team has not been beaten in six years, McPherson realises that today's game is not going to be a walkover.

"The last two years have been good games, there hasn't been a lot in them, I think only two or three goals," he said.

"I think we'd rather be out at the Stadium on a bigger ground because I think that suits us, fitness wise we generally seem to have a bit of an edge.

"Luckily though we've just had the better sides each year."

But if the local North Coast team has been undefeated over the period of time McPherson has carried the magnet board, then surely he has a secret that ensures success.

"The fact that I'm neutral and not involved with a club I think helps a lot with keeping it together because the players see that it's not actually driven by a club or a club coach.

"But it's an honour when you think there's some bloody good footballers here and it's an honour to coach when you've got that quality of players in the team."

Due to injuries and other commitments, the North Coast team isn't at its maximum strength, but McPherson is confident that this will not hinder his team's chances of victory.

"We have lost a couple of key players in Mark Couzens, Luke Matthews and Mark Blundell and they certainly would've been really good players to have in there as key position players.

"But when you look at the four or five from the squad of 30 that we've been able to bring back in, it hasn't weakened the team too much, it's a good side.

McPherson is also expecting today's North Coast team to have an extra edge to it due to the emotion involved with Peter Morgan's passing earlier in the week.

"It's a bit of a special one this one with Peter Morgan's passing during the week," he explained.

"The new guys wouldn't know Peter but North Coast footy hasn't been around for a long time and if you could say there's a bit of a legend to do with sport in general and certainly AFL then Morgo was one.

"I'm expecting it to be pretty special.

The difficult part of representative fixtures is that rarely does anyone have an intimate knowledge of their opposition, and for McPherson, this match is no different.

"We've got no idea what they're going to bring down, how big they're going to be, how many they're going to have or what jumpers they're going to wear.

"You just need to take your best side out there and have enough mobility and flexibility to be able to cover anything."

For McPherson's sake here's hoping the Summerland league aren't carrying any kryptonite.

NORTH COAST:

Backs: Wade Hickey (Coffs Swans), Jimmy Angel (Nambucca Valley), Harley Schmidt (Sawtell).

Half backs: Dean Nankervall (Port Macquarie), Dean Geddes (Port Macquarie), Shannon Skreja (Port Macquarie).

Centres: Greg Jarman (North Coffs), Brad Giri (c) (North Coffs), David Colman (Coffs Swans).

Half forwards: Jason Bencich (North Coffs), Michael Townsend (Nambucca Valley), Andrew Bagnall (Port Macquarie).

Forwards: D. Butterfield (Port Macquarie), Darren Funston (North Coffs), Scott Payne (Port Macquarie).

Rovers: Jon Stephens (Port Macquarie), Tristan Snow (Woolgoolga), Brod McDonald (Woolgoolga).

Iinterchange: Mark Inness (Sawtell), Tony Waterfall (Coffs Swans), Alex Pearson (Sawtell), Tom Campbell (North Coffs).



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