AS A year of ups and downs comes to an end for the Blues, first-year Senior Coach Mathew Buck sees the positives from the year and notes what is on his list of improvements.
For Buck, coaching has always been part of his master plan. From starting out coaching basketball when he was 16, to beginning his football coaching journey a few years later, the goal was in his sights.
Buck began 2023 looking to continue this work as Luke Power’s assistant coach for Carlton’s VFL side, but with the restructuring of the AFLW program in full swing, an opportunity came around that he eventually acted upon.
Having never coached women’s football before, Buck’s initial caution was quickly swept away after his early interactions with the Blues’ AFLW side, seeing the passion that his future players had for the game.
“I was hellbent on the path and to see how far I could go with my coaching. I was really comfortable with the path I was on” Buck said.
“[Brad Lloyd] asked me to start doing some skill sessions because [of a coaching gap], and that was kind of my first look at women’s football.
“Through those skills sessions, I could see the joy and the learning that everyone was taking on and it kind of lit a little spark in me and I thought maybe this is something I could go after and enjoy”.
After being appointed as Senior Coach for the AFLW side in April, Buck was quick to start tackling the task at hand, assembling his team of coaches to back him in his first campaign.
With the support of a fresh-faced football department, Buck set his sights on the pre-season training of his newly acquired list of players, all while laying down his values.
“I had to assemble coaching staff which I’m really proud of and they did such a great job to support me," he said.
“Ash Naulty came in as Head of Women’s Football and he does a magnificent job with an unbelievable work ethic.
“I think I’m really clear on individuals and where they need to do to become great players and I’m really clear on where our group is at and where our improvement areas lie."
As the season played out, Buck and his team were pleased with the direction that things were heading.
With the off-field improvements providing some on-field success, the Blues’ Senior Coach made sure there was a balance between celebrating the wins that came and being realistic with any expectations.
As the Blues missed out on the finals series, Buck reflected fondly on his team’s ability to stick to the task and build on the foundations laid during the pre-season.
“The wins are fantastic and we celebrate them, but it's also more about how we’re going about our business and then don’t fluctuate through wins and losses and I think we managed that really well,” Buck said.
“You fast forward to the end of the season and I’m really comfortable with what we’ve done off the field. We’re well on our way and what we’ve established off the field, we’re going to see the fruits of that in years to come."
With the 2023 season now in the rear-view mirror, Buck has his sights set on next year and having a full off-season to plan his attack.
While there will be slight adjustments to make after his first year at the helm, Buck is full of optimism about what his side can achieve in the new year.
“We’ve obviously established our game plan, how we want to play and are clear on the fundamentals that we need to get right to be able to compete at the level that we want to,” he said.
“I think with the team of coaches we’ve got - who are really keen to help and support and help players get better - I think we can make some really big strides with individuals in the pre-season.”