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Melbourne Football Club

Plapp takes pride in VFL recruits

It’s nice to see those boys working hard each day on their craft and they’re all at different levels, but it’s really nice seeing them develop
Justin Plapp

ASSISTANT coach Justin Plapp says he takes great pride in watching the development of Tim Smith, Declan Keilty and now Bayley Fritsch, who all played under him in the VFL, and are now on Melbourne’s AFL list.

The former Casey Demons coach, who guided the club to the 2016 VFL Grand Final, has taken over as Melbourne midfield coach, with Jade Rawlings now the coach of Melbourne’s VFL affiliate club.

Plapp said Smith and Keilty, who are now entering their second AFL-listed season, and Fritsch, who has impressed so far in his first year, have all made big strides since entering a full-time AFL environment.   

“To see where they’ve all come from in the last two to three years – and having spent a lot of time with them – you watch them mature and develop,” he told  

“’Bull’ (Smith) has had his challenges with missing so much footy through injury, and Declan continues to grow, and Bayley continues to emerge into the talent he showed at VFL level last year.

“It’s nice to see those boys working hard each day on their craft and they’re all at different levels, but it’s really nice seeing them develop.”

Plapp said he also had a greater appreciation for a host of Melbourne players, who he didn’t spend as much time with, given his previous commitments as Casey coach.

“’Clarry’ (Clayton Oliver), his training and work rate is something that has been a real eye-opener. His attention to detail and work-ethic is excellent,” he said.

“Watching Nathan Jones and Jack Viney closer … the level of intensity they work at has certainly given me a greater appreciation of why they’re great players.

“The development of Billy Stretch and Christian Salem – those boys are young developing players who have had strong pre-seasons and they’re starting to have mature bodies. But I could reel off the 13 or 14 boys I work with in the midfield – I’ve seen things in them that I haven’t been exposed to on a day-to-day level, previously.

“Young ruckmen Mitch King and Lochie Filipovic – to see where they’ve come from, they’re bodies are starting to really develop, and even Max Gawn has taken his game to another level, just through hard work. He’s getting some strong rewards as well.”

Plapp, who coached Casey to three consecutive finals series, said he loved every minute of his coaching transition this season.  

“It’s certainly a different focus, going from coaching your own team and trying to bring two groups of players together – professional and semi-professional – but the role I’m doing now, I absolutely love,” he said.

“It’s a great opportunity and I’m really grateful for that. To be front and square to the AFL boys every day is something I really cherish.

“To get to work with them and train with them – that’s one thing Simon [Goodwin] has been big on, embracing every moment with them … and doing things they do day-to-day. That’s helped build relationships quickly and really fast-track them, which has been great.

“The way Simon has set up the new structure has been fantastic.”

Looking ahead to Thursday night’s JLT Community Series clash against St Kilda at Casey Fields, Plapp said it was a great opportunity to fine tune the team for round one.

“We want to continue to work on the things that we’ve worked hard on over the pre-season, and for the players to consolidate and put their case forward for round one,” he said.

He added that it was a great opportunity for the City of Casey to have AFLW and now AFL JLT Community Series matches played in the region.

“Casey is a bigger ground, so it gives us an opportunity to work on some of things that we’ve been working on over the pre-season. We’re really looking forward to continuing to evolve our game,” Plapp said.

“It’s great for the Casey community – an area we work closely with as a club – to come and watch AFL in their backyard.

“Casey has been pretty close to my heart for the past three years, working with the VFL team, so anytime people in Casey region get exposed to AFL footy is only a good thing.”