The Southern FNL annually hosts their player development program in conjunction with the St Kilda Football Club. The program originated in 2021 and the league gives each club the opportunity to nominate a talented young player to participate in the program to take not only their playing skills but off field skills to the next level.
The Program runs for 8 weeks, with two separate teams, with the 2023 coaches being Selena Karlson (Collingwood AFLW player) for the Women's side, and Brad Crouch (St Kilda AFL player) for the Men’s.
This is Karlson’s second year coaching the program, “I really enjoy it, the group this year are impeccable, they’ve gelled really well together and taken everything on board.”
“It’s an amazing program, it gives the players an opportunity to meet their competition and excel together, and the girls I have here I know have taken the skills back to their clubs.” Karlson added.
As for the St Kilda midfielder, its Crouch’s first year officially coaching the Men’s program after helping out during last year. “I was lucky enough to be offered the role by the SFNL, and its been great fun and I've loved the experience.”
“It’s a great program that the league provides, trying to develop the players, these players want to be able to make the VFL and this program definitely helps them make that step towards their goals.” Crouch said.
The program focuses on the ability to improve players off the field, as being a good professional footballer is more than just playing the game. Some of the main focuses throughout the program are recovery, diet, routine and fundamentals.
Picture above: The Women's players during one of their off field sessions
Zac White, Tabatha Jones, Sarah Tebbutt and Sam Shaw were some of the players who participated in the 2023 program with all of them varying from different divisions and skills. When asked what their biggest takeaways were, a repetitive topic was the importance of recovery and diet.
South Mornington’s Sam Shaw stated, “my recovery has improved a tremendous amount, I never learnt proper recovery, so instead of waiting until my body felt fine on the Thursday the week after, my body feels recovered a day or two after the game.”
The players have relished the opportunity to learn from industry professionals to improve their game, with both Men’s and Women’s players having similar, however different, learning experiences from their respective coaches.
Both White and Shaw said that Crouch has had a focus of treating your body right off the field but also to train 100% even though it's just training, because how you train is how you play.
This lines up with Crouch's biggest message he tried to put forward throughout the program saying, “train with intent and take as may risks as you can so you learn from them… We like to add some fun punishments in trainings just so they train 100% to avoid the extra push-ups!”
Karlson’s biggest message to the group “Always work on the fundamentals, at AFLW level we do it all the time it's something you can always try to perfect… Recovery is another thing I’ve been trying to encourage, it's extremely important” Karlson continued to say.
“However, my biggest message was to have fun and make sure you're enjoying playing footy. When you’re enjoying your footy, you’re playing the best footy!”
Karlson’s messages translated to the group as both Jones and Tebbutt, said that the program was memorable, they loved the connections they made and how important it is to enjoy footy.
The development program also helps current AFL players Selena Karlson and Brad Crouch develop as coaches, as it is something they are both very interested in after they finish their respective careers.
The Southern FNL is extremely pleased with another successful year of the development program, and are very pleased with each player’s development, on the road to be the best player possible.