BAXTER has reached a fork in the road and its future direction could decide whether head coach Stephen Fisher remains at the State 4 club.
Preliminary talks between club and coach took place last week and got off to a positive start.
“If we had won promotion under the current set-up it would have been like going into a gunfight with a knife,” Fisher said.
“There wouldn’t have been a happy outcome and we would have been fighting relegation throughout the State 3 season.”
That’s a reference to the absence of a playing budget.
Simply stated Baxter has to decide how ambitious it wants to be.
If promotion is a target then it has to be prepared to pay match payments and that would entail giving Fisher a budgetary base from which to negotiate with players.
It’s a quantum leap for the club and one if adopted would entail managing revenue streams in order to switch from an amateur to a semi-professional structure.
But if the club decides to maintain the status quo then Fisher’s future at Baxter Park is uncertain.
If he left it could trigger a major exodus of playing and coaching staff and present his replacement with a daunting task.
But Fisher was in a positive mood last weekend when reflecting on aspects of the season just ended in which he led the club to a third-placed finish.
“One of the unwritten stories of the season was the development of (assistant coach) Hayden Taylor,” Fisher added.
“His coaching really improved especially his communication skills, his ability to get his message across – I’ve got no doubts that he will be a senior coach and a very successful one.
“But it wasn’t just the success of ‘Hados’ and ‘CJ’ (goalkeeping coach Chris Jones) it was the development of so many players that stood out.
“For example we got 21 games into Brodie Jones, Noah Green and Keegan Myatt and 19 games into Brodie McMinimee – these guys had never been regular senior footballers but now they are.
“Aiden McKenna – when he was fit – was unbelievable and ‘DT’ (Daniel Taylor) was already a senior footballer and came in and started to show leadership qualities while the improvement in Jack Elliott was ridiculous.”
If Baxter backs Fisher then his immediate task will be to tie up existing players for next season before turning to his list of signing targets for 2024.
Interesting times indeed at Baxter Park.
In State 5 news Seaford United’s season finally ended when it went down 3-2 to Old Melburnians in their promotion play-off on Saturday.
The match kicked off at 11am at Monbulk Recreation Reserve much to the astonishment of local fans.
Seaford was without key players in Cory Osorio (work commitments), Josh Vega (illness) and Sam Luxford (injured) and went behind from a curling strike from outside the area by Daniel Sporle in the 28th minute.
Seven minutes later it was 1-1 after the faintest of touches from Old Melburnians’ Fraser Crawford trying to defend an inswinging Blake Hicks free-kick.
Hicks claimed the goal as Crawford played no part in changing the ball’s direction but referee Hans Feilso ruled that it was an own goal.
Old Melburnians regained their lead in the 39th minute through Pat McCrohan.
Esmat Ehsani almost levelled immediately but his close-range strike hit the post and Old Melburnians led 2-1 at half-time.
Early in the second half Blake Hicks shot just wide after capitalising on a defensive slip-up but Seaford was finally rewarded for its pressure when substitute Andrew Packer slotted home a loose ball at the back post in the 80th minute.
The pivotal moment in this contest came in the final minute of normal time when a scuffle in the Seaford box resulted in a penalty and Thomas Hall converted.
Seaford’s Michael Nobbs was red-carded for complaining and although Seaford gave its all in the nine minutes of added time it struggled to create any clear-cut chances.
In NPL2 news Langwarrin is taking a targeted approach to finding a replacement for departed senior coach Scott Miller.
The Lawton Park club has decided on a preferred candidate approach and will not throw open the application process.
Miller’s assistant Jamie Skelly is expected to continue his long-standing involvement with the club and there should be more clarity over his role once the new senior coach is announced.
A name that is consistently mentioned is that of Dandenong Thunder ex-head coach and Mornington technical director David Chick.
The 38-year-old Norwich native holds a UEFA B licence and played and coached at Norwich City’s academy before coming to Melbourne in 2012 to take up a playing contract with Hume City.
Chick has coached at Hume, Northcote and Pascoe Vale and Thunder has finished eighth in consecutive seasons under him.
Last week Thunder officially announced his departure and Chick is in demand.
It’s believed that Langwarrin would have to fend off elite NPL suitors such as Heidelberg United and Bentleigh Greens to clinch his appointment so it could take an attractive package including a healthy player budget to persuade Chick to switch to Lawton Park.
In other news Football Victoria is in talks with Football Australia about the proposed establishment of a National Second Tier (NST) competition.
Seven Victorian NPL clubs had their expressions of interest approved in May and are believed to now be in the Request For Proposal (RFP) phase of the selection process.
That is likely to involve an information memorandum, NST-related data including financial forecasts and benchmarking, key terms of a Club Participation Agreement and draft transaction documents.
In FA’s announcement last week of the RFP phase the national body included a clause that could have a major bearing on promotion and relegation throughout Victoria’s NPL and State Leagues competitions. It read:
“Successful respondents to the application process would be required to depart their existing senior first team football competitions for the National Second Tier.”
FV CEO Kimon Taliadoros said that the state body is seeking clarification of the impact of that clause.
“We are seeking guidance from FA on this in the first instance … [as] the impacts are still largely unknown at this stage,” he said.
FA is hopeful that the proposed NST could commence next March but there is broad scepticism about its financial viability let alone a kick-off early next year.