By Nick Creely
Narre Warren playing assistant Dylan Quirk is a coach in waiting for the future.
Yet by his own admission, his coaching debut in Saturday’s qualifying final victory against Beaconsfield wasn’t exactly how he envisioned it unfolding.
Quirk – in the midst of a brilliant individual season in the midfield – was thrust into the role during the week to replace regular senior coach Matt Shinners, who despite pushing to take his place on the weekend, couldn’t get over a nasty illness.
“Yeah it was certainly not the circumstances I wanted to have for my first coaching gig with Matty being so crook,” he said.
“But I sort of knew mid-week to expect it might happen, and after a few conversations with Matty, he was still keen, but he has a pretty bad infection.
“It was a good day, and it’s something I certainly want to do in the future, there’s no doubt about that, and while the circumstances weren’t great, it was pleasing to get the win.”
The Magpies were completely dominant to kick off their finals campaign in wet-conditions against the Eagles in what was extremely difficult conditions at Berwick’s Edwin Flack Reserve, controlling the game from the outset to move one win closer to a grand final berth, 13.5 (83) to 2.9 (21).
Coming off a tough loss to Berwick to finish the home and away season, Quirk’s Magpies were always destined to respond, slamming on five first quarter goals and maintaining control over the contest, before holding the Eagles at bay in the second term to set up a four-goal lead at the main break.
Running out comfortable winners with a six-goal to none second half – with the likes of Nathan Foote, Matt Soroczynski, Jake Richardson and Trent Cody all prominent – Quirk said nothing drastic needed to change from his perspective, just to adjust to the wet conditions.
“It was a terrific performance, and especially in those conditions,” he said.
“When you woke up that morning you always knew it’d be tough, but you certainly don’t expect Berwick’s ground to look that too often, it usually looks like the MCG.
“You’re not teaching a side too many new tricks this time of the year, it’s just about rolling them out but some things change, and they certainly did with the conditions, whether it was the way you move the ball and just going forward,” he said.
“But nothing out of the ordinary changed on the weekend in terms of coaching.”
For the Eagles, who will need to bounce back quickly in a cut-throat semi final against Cranbourne on Saturday, Sean Dwyer battled hard as usual, while Jack Griffiths relished the conditions.
With yet another showdown with Berwick this Saturday for a spot in the grand final, Quirk said the group is upbeat and hopes that the recent clash between the two sides will provide valuable lessons as they look to topple the Wickers.
“They outplayed us (in Round 18), the score line probably flattered us to be honest – it’s sort of been the issue, we’ve sort of known we’re in the top two and not probably playing the benchmark side in Round 1 and Round 18, we didn’t really know what the yardstick was,” he said.
“You can watch as much footage as you want, but until you witness it first hand it’s hard to gauge – we know where we went wrong, we were smashed in the midfield and if we can turn that around it’ll go a long way in winning the game.”
With Quirk set to hand back the reins to Shinners this weekend, the gun midfielder reflected on his return to his best football after battling a back issue and struggling to get continuity in his game for the last few years.
It’s a home and away season that will have him high in the votes for the upcoming league best and fairest.
“Over probably the last two years my form’s been down on the years previous to that,” he explained.
“It’s (2019) been my most consistent in terms of numbers, but I’m at 25, and it’s probably the first pre-season I’ve been able to do in four years which helps.
“(And) I’ve learnt to manage the back issue as opposed to getting it right, but it’s been a frustrating few years, but it’s been good, and when I was younger it was all about train hard, train hard, train hard, and this year it’s about managing and it’s made a difference.”