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Inside Casey: taking it to next level

Matt Burgan  December 28, 2017 7:06 PM

PLENTY has been happening at Casey Demons, with the club increasing its staff and resources, giving Melbourne a greater focus on the club and the City of Casey region. Matt Burgan looks at the developments at Casey Fields …

THE MELBOURNE/CASEY BACKGROUND

In 2009, Melbourne aligned with VFL club, Casey Scorpions, entering a 30-year partnership.

Prior to that, Melbourne had partnered Sandringham in the VFL from 2000-08, after the AFL reserves were abolished at the end of the 1999 season.

Casey, formerly Springvale from 1903-2005, became Casey Scorpions in 2006.

Springvale was initially a standalone team in the revamped VFL in 2000, before it aligned with St Kilda from 2001-08.

From 2009, Melbourne and St Kilda switched their VFL aligned teams. Melbourne partnered with Casey, and St Kilda and Sandringham joined. In the process, Casey Fields became one of Melbourne’s training campuses for its AFL squad.

Having spent the early 2000s at several venues, Springvale came to an arrangement with the City of Casey in 2005, which saw it transfer to the newly-developed Casey Fields, a $30 million, 70-hectare, multi-sports complex in Cranbourne East.

Casey Fields also became home to Casey-South Melbourne Cricket Club in the Victorian Premier Cricket, while other sports such as netball, tennis, cycling, golf and rugby became part of the complex.  

Since it opened, Casey Fields has been used for AFL pre-season matches, with Melbourne playing there regularly in February/March.

In 2010, a $2.1 million project took place at Casey Fields. The VFL pavilion underwent a significant transformation. An AFL-standard gym, physiotherapy area, warm-up room, change rooms and recovery space, including a state-of-the-art refrigerated spa were opened.

Off the field, and for several years, Melbourne and the City of Casey have delivered community partnerships/functions in schools, businesses and sporting clubs at an estimated value of more than $2.3 million per year. The ‘Read Like a Demon’ program, for example, has been a genuine success.

Community camps and ‘The Festival of Football’ have also been held by Melbourne in the City of Casey. Melbourne also dedicates one AFL round each year to the City of Casey. 

Melbourne memberships in the City of Casey have increased in recent years, as more local supporters join the club. 

In the lead-up to the 2017 season, Casey Scorpions became Casey Demons to further strengthen its ties with Melbourne.

In 2016-17, Casey made the VFL finals, reaching the Grand Final in 2016 under former coach Justin Plapp, who has transitioned to the Melbourne coaching staff for 2018.   

Melbourne’s partnership with Casey continues to go from strength-to-strength, with the Casey Demons, previously Cranbourne, set to play in the 2018 VFL Women’s competition. The Next Generation Academy is also another crucial element of the Melbourne and Casey partnership.

In September/October, Melbourne and Casey increased its resources with the likes of Peter Maynard (General Manager – Casey Football), Jade Rawlings (Casey Demons head coach), Colin Garland (Casey Demons VFLW Head Coach) and Kyle Docherty (NGA Manager) appointed.

The focus Melbourne has placed on Casey, particularly this off-season has been significant, highlighting the importance of the partnership for 2018 – and the years to come.   

THE GM OF CASEY FOOTBALL – PETER MAYNARD

“THIRD time lucky,” says Peter Maynard with a laugh, as he talks with passion about his return to Melbourne and more specifically, Casey Demons.

Maynard’s first instalment at Melbourne came when he played eight matches for the club in 1980-81 – his sons Corey (Melbourne) and Brayden (Collingwood) are now on AFL lists. Peter became a star in the SANFL after his career with the Demons.

From 2009-13, he was general manager of commercial operations.

He rejoined Melbourne at the end of the 2017 season to play a critical role at Casey Demons, helping take the partnership with Melbourne, Casey and the City of Casey to the next level.

“It’s the key thing. The whole reason and rationale behind Melbourne being out at Casey was the 30-year partnership with the City of Casey,” he said.

“For Melbourne, it’s all about fan engagement, fan development strategy and participation and bringing our brand to Casey.

“Whether it’s been a lack of resources or just timing – Melbourne hasn’t been able to devote quite the time necessary to bring it to life, and the City of Casey for that matter as well.”

Maynard said with the expansion of AFLW, VFLW and the NGA, Melbourne and Casey were now in a strong position to facilitate the best possible outcomes for its new teams.

“With what’s happened in the last 12 months – Melbourne footy club brands coming out to Casey – it’s brought to reality for both council and Melbourne that we really need to make something of it,” he said.

“You’ve got situations like Geelong looking to develop an elite performance facility at Modewarre or Hawthorn looking to build one at Dingley. For me, the Melbourne footy club has got the crux of it in Casey. It’s now about looking at what we’ve got, and what we haven’t got, bringing in partners and focusing on partnerships to bring it to life.

“For me, we’re far more advanced than the majority of AFL teams, in relation to having an elite sports facility outside of our home ground and suburban base.”

Already a $500k upgrade is taking place at Casey Fields to accommodate AFLW and VFLW teams. Soon, new logos will also be placed at the ground, with a visual element being added to the venue.

Maynard said the opportunity to use existing facilities in the City of Casey, such as Bunjil Place in Narre Warren were also part of the club’s plans.

“It’s an amazing new building. We’ll be doing a lot of activities there – both Melbourne and Casey Demons. Hopefully during the year, Melbourne games will be played there on the big digital screens, so that’ll bring it to life,” he said.

“We’ll have a social/partnership centre, plus the centre of excellence out at Casey Fields. Without the City of Casey’s contribution and devotion to the partnership, there is no way known that any of this would get done.

“Melbourne and the City of Casey can really grasp the opportunity for both parties.”

Already, partnerships are up by “400 to 500 per cent”, said Maynard.

“Critical to that – they’re not just partnerships that are randomly selected – they’re partnerships that can play a role out in Casey,” he said.

Already Chisholm has become a major partner with Melbourne and Casey Demons for 2018, Wolfdene has increased its partnership and Heatstrip has jumped on board for next season.

ResourceCo has also become a major partner for Casey in 2018 and Ross Faulkner will supply football gear/equipment for next season.

In addition, Maynard said Casey will utilise Chisholm, which is getting a new strength and conditioning facility, and Casey Recreation and Aquatic Centre (Casey RACE), which are close by to Casey Fields.

“You’ve got your wet areas, your strength and conditioning, your theatrette, all of your vision in the video rooms, so all of a sudden the whole area – rather than just Casey Fields becomes an elite sports area,” he said.

“To be able to accommodate AFL, AFL Women’s, VFL, VFL Womens and the Next Generation Academy, we’ve really needed to increase the facilities and elite level aspect for our teams – and we’re doing that with all parties involved, which is great.”

THE COACH – JADE RAWLINGS

FOR Jade Rawlings, it’s somewhat of a back to the future scenario for the new Casey coach.

Rawlings, who played 148 games with Hawthorn, Western Bulldogs and North Melbourne from 1996-2006, said the chance to coach in the VFL was an opportunity too good to pass up.

Having tasted senior coaching in the AFL with Richmond, when he was caretaker coach, in between Terry Wallace and Damien Hardwick, Rawlings has since been part of the Brisbane Lions and Melbourne coaching staff.

In fact, he has been with the Demons since September 2011 and recently was in the mix to coach the Gold Coast Suns, before the appointment of Stuart Dew.

But after six seasons with Melbourne and qualifying as a level four coach via the AFL program, Rawlings has remained with the red and blue, but with its VFL affiliate, Casey Demons, which is something he’s proud and passionate of.

“Melbourne is really immersing itself in the community and it’s got great relationships with the council and other stakeholders down here,” he said.

“We’re really trying to evolve this … it’s been a significant increase since the way the relationship was when I first started at the club.

“It can be so beneficial for players and clubs, if you do it well.”

Rawlings says the fact Melbourne had drafted Tim Smith, Declan Keilty and most recently Bayley Fritsch from Casey was proof that the alignment was critical. Others such as Lion Oscar McInerney were also drafted from Casey. 

And Rawlings believes there is talent “that should be in the mix” for the 2018 drafting period, while he says the likes of Mitch White (previously on Melbourne’s list) and Corey Wagner (ex-North Melbourne) and brother of Demon Josh, were capable of being redrafted to the AFL.

“There is talent that could play AFL, if they do the required work and perform. It’s been a good breeding ground for a number of AFL players,” he said.

“Corey Wagner is fairly unlucky not to be on an AFL list. He was keen to be part of the program, along with Mitch White, who was delisted by Melbourne. There was no bad blood. He was quite popular at our club – it just didn’t go his way.

“Mitch felt strongly towards Casey as well and we were able to retain him and he’s able to play for us.”

Rawlings praised former Casey coach Justin Plapp, who has transitioned into the Melbourne coaching team, for the work he had done at the club. 

“We’ve got a good strong VFL list that works well with the AFL list. Last year, we played two finals and weren’t able to go any further, and the injury list was one of the worst I’ve experienced in my time at the club,” he said.

“The way the Melbourne list has been assembled – there is a great level of depth there … plus the likes of Casey-listed players Mitch Gent, Jack Hutchins, Angus Scott, Jimmy Munro, Dylan Gordon and Will Collis – there are some really good players who have established themselves in the VFL.

“We think our list is strong and where it takes us – it’ll be up to the group.”

THE PLAYER – MITCH WHITE

MITCH White played four AFL matches for Melbourne from 2015-17.

A likeable and impressive young man, White gave it a genuine crack in the AFL, but at the end of the 2017 season, he was delisted by the club.

White said the fact he loved playing for Melbourne – and knew the new coach well – played a big hand in him remaining at Casey.

“I only live around the corner from Casey Fields anyway, so it was one drawcard and as soon as I heard that ‘Twig’ (Rawlings) was at the club, I was on board. I’ve got a good relationship with him, as he was my backline coach at Melbourne, so I think he’s loving being in control of a team again,” he said.

“As soon as I heard he was down here, it was a bit of a no-brainer for me, with his professionalism and he’s someone who drove me. He’ll help a lot of boys down here as well.

“Plappy has run a great program at Casey and there has been four drafted from here in the past two years, and ‘Twig’ gives everyone the best chance to go again – if not drafted, then playing really good footy.”

Although disappointed by his delsting, White quickly moved on and saw an opportunity to keep in touch with the club, join Casey as a VFL-listed player – and in the process – keep his AFL dream alive.

“I love being down here so far, although it’s a little bit harder coming from work now, as opposed to just footy, footy, footy. It’s been hard work, but the boys are getting stuck into it,” he said.

“I saw the quality of the program, being at Melbourne, and it was hard to see myself going anywhere else.

“The quality of coaching, the quality of players, and the quality of the VFL – it’s a great program. It’s only going to get better at Casey and I’m really looking forward to 2018.”

The 2018 Casey Demons staff – full-time

Peter Maynard (GM Casey Football)

Matt Young (VFL/VFLW Football Operations Manager)

Rachael Lewis (Events and Admin Manager)

Kyle Docherty (NGA and Community Manager)

Jade Rawlings (VFL Head Coach)

Colin Garland (VFLW Head Coach)