It takes something special for Brendan McCartney to dedicate what limited time he has away from a busy life in the AFL bubble and travel down to Colac.
But the former Western Bulldogs coach said he couldn’t resist offering his 20 years of experience at the elite level to pass on knowledge to an aspiring young mentor in Colac Tigers leader Kane Leersen.
“Kane reached out about tapping into some experience to build the footy club,” McCartney said.
“He was passionate about a one-club philosophy where people learn about footy and put the best possible people and junior coaches around them so they grow up wanting to be Colac footballers and learn a certain brand of footy and way of training and playing.
“It sort of resonated with me, so I met with him and the president Matt Gibson and they were really passionate about building their footy club up for the future.”
McCartney has built a relationship with Leersen, 30 years his junior, since the 27-year-old took on a playing-coach role at the start of 2017.
Newtown and Chilwell football product McCartney led Ocean Grove to four premierships in mid-1990s and held coaching positions at Richmond, Geelong and Essendon before landing the top job at the Bulldogs in 2012.
McCartney, now a specialist coach at Melbourne, has “spent four or five sessions” with Colac footballers, while offering advice to Leersen and his coaching panel.
“It’s been good fun and I’ve really enjoyed it,” he said.
“I’ve kept it pretty uncomplicated, but just shared experiences with what I’ve seen work and it’s more about guidance and something to think about.”
Perhaps McCartney’s most celebrated coaching stint was his tenure at Geelong between 2000 and 2010, with the Cats winning two flags in ’07 and ’09 when McCartney was one of Mark “Bomber” Thompson’s leading assistants.
He has earned widespread praise from Geelong’s premiership players from the club’s successful era for his style of mentoring.
McCartney said Leersen, who led Colac to a preliminary final in his first year in 2017, had special qualities as a coach.
“He’s highly intelligent and quite worldly for a young man,” he said.
See today’s Colac Herald for more.