MIDFIELD coach Tim Clarke is a big endorser of fostering connections and relationships outside of football. 

Professional AFL players spend the majority of the week living and breathing football, which can take a big mental and physical toll on players. 

Clarke and the entire coaching group acknowledge that what happens outside the four walls of the Club is just as important as what happens at IKON Park. 

“AFL is a really tough and challenging game and there’s a lot of demand physically, but there’s also a lot of demand mentally and I feel that a lot of players need a release that isn’t football,” Clarke said.  

“If all that you’ve got in your life is football, you go away from the Club and people want to talk about football, it can be quite draining.”

Because of this, a big focus at the Club is helping players find hobbies and interests away from AFL, allowing them to clear their heads and have something else to focus on and encouraging them to relax. 

“We encourage our players to do activities, whether it be studying or work experience, it could be sport/leisure activities in golf, tennis, reading a book or going for a walk,” he said. 

“We encourage them to find what it is that they enjoy doing, who it is that they enjoy doing it with and go and chase it. 

“We know if they’re more relaxed and happier outside of footy, they’re going to be better footballers.” 

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Clarke noted that one of the best things a player can do is find a group within the Club that has common interests and players can build formidable relationships from there. 

“It’s all about spending time: it’s working out who has similar hobbies, who has similar interests to you, similar backgrounds,” he said.  

“Once you work out who your people are, who the guys are that you want to spend time with, go and do extra activities.” 

At IKON Park, surfing and golfing are two major focuses for the playing group, with Jack Newnes stating "you’re either a surfer or a golfer... except for me, who does both.” 

Clarke is an avid surfer himself, having grown up in Torquay, and understands the mental and physical cleanse behind the activity.

“Most people who enjoy surfing like the activity of surfing, but they also like the mental side of it,” he said. 

“They’re out in the water, they’re in nature, there’s not many people to distract them, there’s no mobile phones. It’s just you and the waves and those guys that are around you. 

Clarke notes he can see why Tom De Koning loves surfing, acknowledging his recent progression in form and how composed he can be on the field. 

“I can see why ‘Tommy’ loves it, I think it’s really good for his football. It’s got a recovery element to it as well, you’re spending a lot of time moving in cold water. 

“For me, the mental release that he has and the passion and interest that he has in that too is a big part of why he can roll out and play good competitive footy.” 

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As for the connection and mateship, Clarke believes that teammates that spend time together bonding away from the Club actually play better together on-field. 

Having been a coach for many years, Clarke is adamant that he’s consistently seen mates that understand each other better on-field after they bond away from the Club. 

“Usually you see the guys who get along outside the Club are the ones who play well together on the field,” he said. 

“Some of the most recent successful teams have built a lot of their success on connection and the team being really tight, and that is built on-field by going out there and playing a really tough and connected brand of footy, but it’s also investing in the relationships.” 

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Clarke and the coaching group help the players find their niche, allowing them to foster strong relationships with their fellow players. 

Once they find their group, the Club aims to do whatever they can to nurture that interest, knowing in the end, it will lead to better results on the field. 

“If you come into the footy club, hopefully you can find some players that you share interests with and that can assist you with connecting to the group,” he said. 

“Even though you’re talking about your golf swing or the last drive that you had, you’re also going to be talking about footy. You’re going to be talking about other relationship in your life.

"And essentially, the more time that the boys can spend together, the deeper that connection is going to be: that can only help us on the footy field.”