Future looks solid
By GREG WHITE
THE Sawtell AFL players are such a tight bunch, coach Russell Matthews hardly feels the need for correct names when discussing his charges.
When Matthews took the call from the Coffs Coast Advocate asking who's new, and who's gone, the nicknames came pouring out.
"Johnno has just joined us," he said.
"He's played in a higher league down the coast."
For those interested, 'Johnno' is Sawtell town centre's new barber.
"Oh, and we've also picked up Fozz," Matthews pointed out.
"Don't know his real name but it's written down somewhere."
For fans and supporters of the reigning NCAFL premiers, the news is not all rosy.
"Unfortunately, we've lost Rowdy (Damian James)," coach Matthews groaned.
"And Bull (Mark Innes) has gone to Tassie so we can write him off for the season."
Leaving jokes about translation aside, the serious side of Matthews sees a brilliant future for the club despite last year's premiership coming completely out of left field.
"It might have shocked a lot of people but we did work hard for it," he said.
While originally seeking only one season in command, Matthews confirms the pressure to remain was intense.
"Sawtell people demand a lot of their teams, no matter the sport," he said, mentioning everything from baseball to cricket and rugby league.
"They told me it would be a pity to bow out after one year, especially after winning the flag at the first attempt."
The first official training session in February will give Matthews a clearer picture of the talent he will have available in the new season.
He'll probably take a peek at the registration book to get a handle on some of the correct names.
"I just call them what they like to be called," he said.
"It stays friendly and shows we're all mates."