WITH football evolving at a rapid rate, the need for contemporary voices on coaching staff is greater than ever.
And there is no more contemporary a voice on the Saints coaching staff than Darren Jolly who signed on at the end of last year as a part-time ruck coach.
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After 237 games and 122 goals throughout a 13-year career with Melbourne, Sydney and Collingwood, Jolly’s career came to a close at the end of 2013.
Acknowledged as one of the best ruckmen of recent times, Jolly was keenly snapped up as St Kilda ruck coach after missing out on a spot at the rookie draft.
He says he can bring a fresh view to the St Kilda coaching staff.
“It helps, certainly with the way the game is played at the moment, having someone who has experienced the rule changes and knowing opponents’ strengths and weaknesses,” Jolly said.
“Our guys have only played a handful of games between them so for someone who only finished last year to come in and bring that experience and knowledge certainly helps.”
The 32-year-old says he is enjoying the role, despite being in the job for a matter of weeks.
“It’s been a good experience for me. Coming off playing fresh from last year and the things the young ruckmen are doing now, I’ve had 13 years of that so for me to come here and pass on my wisdom and experience to the young guys here is something I enjoy doing,” Jolly said.
Having played in premierships at both the Swans and the Magpies, Jolly said he was hoping to bring elements of both clubs to his new football home at Linen House Centre.
“There were fantastic leaders involved with those clubs and I have been fortunate to be at two fantastic clubs in Sydney and Collingwood and certainly Melbourne to start with I was a bit young and fresh then but my eyes opened up once I got to Sydney,” he said.
“Seeing how they operate as a successful team and certain things they do were fantastic for me to learn and I have been able to pass on a few tips here and there.”
It is a young and relatively inexperienced ruck brigade for Jolly to work with at the Saints, but he said he has seen plenty of promise from Tom Hickey, Rhys Stanley, Billy Longer and Jason Holmes in his work with them.
“I suppose over the years we have had a lot of change and a lot of young guys have come in and that new breed and fold of players have come through. It is exciting,” he said.
“Certainly being out here and seeing them train – they are full of enthusiasm and youth which brings a certain freshness to the group. After the setbacks they’ve had over the past few years this year we are going to see some exciting players coming through.”
American-born Holmes is a particularly curious case having only recently taken up Australian football after playing a high level of basketball in his home country.
“He is very athletic and very raw. He is probably the main one asking a lot of questions because this game is new to him,” Jolly said.
“Everything else he is picking up and it is a big learning curve for him and knowing how to use his body. To be honest he has got a long way to go but certainly he is on the right track.”
Jolly’s on-field career may have come to a close but he will still have the occasional run with close friends at the Lexton football club in his home town near Ballarat.
“I plan to play a few games with some mates back home. Nothing over the top, just four or five games for the year just to have a laugh and a muck around with them.”