By Todd Whelan
Bacchus Marsh Coach Travis Hodgson has quit the club after three years at the helm. Last night’s (Tuesday September 4) announcement comes in the aftermath of the Cobras disappointing 52 point Elimination Final loss to Darley last Sunday. Hodgson famously delivered the ‘The Marsh’ with their drought breaking Premiership win in his first season back in 2016, leaving a legacy that is sure to hold him in the highest regard at Cobraland for years to come.
Hodgson has been linked with a move to coach in his hometown of Sunbury. The speculation is rife and looms as arguably the worst kept secret in local footy. Reliable sources are of the opinion Hodgson will be appointed at the Lions as early as Friday night (September 7). All that is left to play out here is an announcement from the Sunbury Football Club confirming the appointment.
Hodgson has yet to confirm or deny the move.
MOORABOOL NEWS’ Todd Whelan sat down with the outgoing premiership coach to set the record straight.
WHELAN: What was the main reason for you quitting the club?
HODGSON: Travel. (From) Sunbury to Northcote to Bacchus Marsh to Sunbury multiple nights a week, 11 months of the year for three years has caught up with me.
WHELAN: There has been some obvious outside noise you will coach Sunbury in 2019, what’s the latest?
HODGSON: There has, it seems logical. Sunbury is my junior club and my kids play there. I’ll know more in a week or so, there’s four footy clubs in Sunbury….
WHELAN: What have you learned in your time as coach of the Cobras?
HODGSON: That the people from the BMFNC are of the highest quality and that the local rivalry between Bacchus Marsh and Darley is as big as any..
WHELAN: Did you feel like you lost the playing group in the back half of the season, your win/loss (2 wins 5 losses) from your last seven games suggests something wasn’t quite right?
HODGSON: Not at all. We were in every game we played in right up until the finish. When coaches lose the players / the group, they stop being competitive. We found it difficult to connect (from) mid (to) forward and teams worked out how to defend us better.
WHELAN: You were known to give the players a bake from time to time after good wins against lower opposition, did you sense the wheels were falling off earlier than others given your exceptional start to the season 7 wins 1 loss.
HODGSON: I didn’t like some elements of our play, I thought we got ahead of the footy at times which can mean big scores (for) at times but (concerningly) can make it easy to score against. Playing that way can boost your percentage (in the short term), but will never stand up in finals.
WHELAN: How do you explain your poor return against top six teams (3 wins – 7 losses)? The additions of Owen, Willits and Speight warranted a better return…
HODGSON: We just didn’t convert well in most of those games. Five of those top six losses were (decided by) 1,1,6,7,8 points and could have gone either way. Of the four teams left we got within a point of Darley, smashed Melton and North (Ballarat City), and were the only team to beat East (Point) at East (Point). Close losses shaped our season unfortunately.
WHELAN: What impact did loss of Scott Sherlock have on the side?
HODGSON: Huge. He was arguably the best player in the comp when he fell over. Scott will probably be leading the Henderson Medal at the halfway mark.
WHELAN: If you had your time over again would you have played underdone Jacob Chisari and Alec Del Papa in the Elimination Final?
HODGSON: Absolutely. Del Papa did a solid defensive job on (Shane) Page and Jacob Chisari was our most damaging player in the first half. Jacob did more in a half than most did for four quarters.
WHELAN: Did you ever consider starting Owen at Centre Half Back to help sure up the defence – from the outside you looked to have all of your trumps forward?
HODGSON: We did. Our concern with doing it was our inability to kick a winning score without Jake forward. Our concerns were justified having kicked our lowest score for the season even with Jake forward. We modified his role during the week so he could impact at both ends and around the footy. He did that, he’s a star.
WHELAN: What’s your take on the Darley hoodoo, losing last five on the trot?
HODGSON: They’ve got it over us at the moment, however I loved the way we took the challenge up to them early. It happens at all levels. Lake Wendouree couldn’t beat us but turned it around this season and we’ve won our last eight against Sunbury but that won’t last forever. Won’t be long ’til the Marsh square it up.
WHELAN: What does the club need to improve on-field to contend next year?
HODGSON: That’s not for me to say anymore mate. They are aware of what’s needed and there’s no better operator than Adam Sutherland to make that happen.
WHELAN: How would you grade the coaching performance of season 2018, and secondly the playing group?
HODGSON: I thought (the coaching group) we did a good job to have us in a winning postion in every game we played. My assistants worked hard and educated the boys well. At the end of the day we finished fifth and were better than that and came up short. I think the players gave everything they had. I respect them enormously for the way they responded against Sunbury (8th) and Sebastopol (7th) with wins after a tough month and the level of intensity they brought into the Elimination Final.
WHELAN: Who was the best player you coached at the club in your three year stint?
HODGSON: (Jared)Maksymow for sheer talent, (Scott)Sherlock for output and but if I was sorting a team from scratch, (Jake) Owen would be the first picked. There’s three.
WHELAN: It must give you an enormous amount of pride having coached a flag in your first year at ‘The Marsh’ in 2016, breaking a lengthy drought of premiership success for the club and it’s supporters?
HODGSON: I felt enormous satisfaction for the players who had struggled to win games for a long time and for the supporters and the volunteers who had given for so long and finally witnessed the fruits of their labour. Being a part of delivering that was extremely satisfying.
WHELAN: In 20 words or less, sum up the Bacchus Marsh Football Club..
HODGSON: Well lead, inclusive, a magnet to good people. When I think great culture, I think BMFNC.
WHELAN: Finally mate, how do you think you will be received by the Bacchus Marsh Football Club when you and Sunbury meet for the first time next year in the home and away season?
HODGSON: If things go that way, which is the most likely outcome, i’d like to think i’ll be viewed as the enemy from 2pm til 5pm and a friend from 5pm onwards, we’ve shared something pretty special together.
WHELAN: Good luck Trav, i’m sure people will appreciate your honesty with the interview, thanks very much.
HODGSON: Cheers Toddy.