Russell plans to KO his old club
By MITCHELL DALE
IN-COMING Sawtell Saints first grade AFL coach Russell Matthews has one main goal for this season ? to knock his former club, North Coffs, from their lofty perch.
But before he does that, Matthews will need to turn things around dramatically at Richardson Park, after the Saints endured a season to forget in 2004.
But he is confident he can do just that and help the club return to the play-offs this year.
"We have recruited well and I am pretty optimistic about this season," Matthews says.
"We have a good shot at making the finals and it would be very nice to knock North Coffs out.
"I think Port will be the team to beat, hopefully it will be us and them in the final.
"The pressure is on us, North have nothing to prove, but I am pretty sure we will come out on top."
It's not that Matthews has any hard feeling towards the club he guided to successive Under-18s flags in 2003 and 2004.
It's just that he would love to get one up on his former club, who he also played for as a full forward 20 years ago.
"I left North on good terms and received a letter from them thanking me for my time and wishing me the best at Sawtell," he said.
"I'm sure Velty (North coach Dave Velt) and I will argue a bit on the sidelines, but it will be all over at the end of the game."
The Saints have already benefited greatly from having Matthews on board.
Matthews senior has also brought the rest of his clan with him from North Coffs.
Last season Luke, 21, played for the Saints, but will be joined in the red, black and white this year by brothers Dean, 20 and Scott, 18, in the seniors, while Todd, 16, and Beau, 14, will also play at Richardson Park.
"They have ended up with a coach and five players, and of course my good wife, Kerry," Russell says.
"We live in Toormina and it was a family thing to all come over together.
"Luke played here last year, but it was more convenient for us all to be at the one club."
So far, Matthews has been impressed by what he has seen at Sawtell.
"Our first day of training was at the beach and it was about 35 degrees, but we still had good numbers," he said.
"The pre-season has been good, but we have to make sure we're focused at the start of the season."
It will be Matthews's first stint in charge of a first grade side, although he comes with an impressive resume from Under-18 level.
"It is a challenge for me aswell to prove myself at this level."