Berwick premiership coach and ex-Victorian quick Will Carr is as renowned and respected as they come in the south-east, and his latest challenge will see him return permanently to the Victorian Premier Cricket competition where he made a name for himself. The Berwick favourite son chats to Nick Creely about his cricketing future and the success of his club in a season that ended in the face of unprecedented times…
” I’ve got a lot to thank the Berwick Cricket Club for, they’ve done so much for me personally.”
There’s going to be a new Carr permanently parked at Casey Fields.
As an ex-Victorian quick with a formidable on-field record across a storied career that includes six First-Class matches and a List A game, the tag of expectation is always inevitable around whenever Will Carr’s presence is around a cricket club.
And his latest challenge – one set to take him back into the very competition he made a name for himself in the early 2000s for Dandenong – will take him to Casey-South Melbourne, where he will look to steer the club as its head coach in the near future.
Carr is set to take over from the highly regarded Brian Keogh in a succession plan, which will see the 43-year-old take over after one year as a senior assistant.
And after the recent premiership success of his home club Berwick as senior coach in the 2019/20 Dandenong District Turf 1 season, Carr told the Gazette he’s ready for what it takes as he makes his return to Premier Cricket.
“I’ve got a real appetite for Premier Cricket again, and a greater appetite for coaching,” he said.
“I went in to the coaching thing at Berwick sort of part-time, and enjoyed that, and over the last three years its grown stronger and stronger.
“I’ve grown to love the coaching side of things – I was fortunate enough to do some work with Casey last year, albeit in a small capacity, but I liked what I saw in the club.”
With the Swans glittered with developing youth and a hunger for success, Carr said it was almost like a clean slate for the club moving forward.
“There’s a hell of a lot of upside – they’re essentially a brand new club even though they’ve got the history of South Melbourne, they’ve relocated to Casey and it brings its own challenges,” he said.
“The people there are working hard, they’ve got fantastic facilities and the right people.
“I’m under no illusions about how big the job is, it’s an 18-team competition and it’s really tough to get success.
“I’m certainly buoyed by Casey’s young talent; they’ve got good people behind the scenes, and really aligned about how they want to take the club forward.”
While Carr believes that developing players, and nurturing them into bona-fide Premier cricketers is a priority, so is the hunger for immediate on-field success.
“It’s a bit two-fold, we need to be competitive regardless, and finish as high as we can – there’s still a good number of senior players that we’ve got that can be competitive,” he said.
“It’s a combination of getting the best out of those guys, and then at the same time working our backsides off with the younger ones and into consistent first XI players.
“We want to develop young players into consistent first XI players, but we can work hard with the existing group to be really competitive, even without (Luke) Wells’ runs.”
Carr will work closely with Keogh next season, in a relationship he believes is going to be extremely beneficial for the playing group.
“We’re looking beyond one year definitely, BK and I have established a really good working relationship,” he said.
“We want to get the most out of this year there’s no doubt, but we’re also keeping an eye out beyond that, not only for myself, but the playing group.
“We’ve worked very hard in the last month since I’ve signed on – we’ve done a lot of work behind the scenes looking at our list, and putting plans into place in the pre-season.
“I’m really comfortable with that transition next year – we’re in a good space in terms of preparation.”
But Berwick – his home – will always hold a special place in his heart.
After returning to his DDCA club after injuries brought an unfortunate end to his professional career, Carr sought home, and won a Turf 1 premiership as a player in 2005/06.
And now almost a decade and a half later – after a culmination of hard work and patience across the last three years after turning to coaching – Carr departs the club with another Turf 1 premiership, his first as coach among two as a player.
“When I came back (to coach), we had a reasonable squad and team, but there was a few things that were lacking,” he explained.
“We had a couple of stars in (Nathan) Pilon and Maxxy (Wilcock) there and a couple others, but I suppose you’re only as strong as your weakest link.
“I suppose we didn’t have the depth there, and a couple of stars and top-end players would probably admit they weren’t playing at their best at the time, so the challenge was to get the best out of them, and all the players.
“We had some plans in place, Cheeks (Matt Chasemore) and I worked really closely to set some stuff up and it’s a bit of a cliché, but it’s a credit to the guys, they embraced it.
“The ultimate prize was achieved as a result.”
With ex-Premier Cricket great and renowned run-machine Matthew Chasemore as captain, Carr said it was a relationship built on trust, as well as a mutual respect.
“Cheeks is probably the best captain I’ve seen – I’ve played and seen some really good ones so it’s probably not by a stretch, but his on-field captaincy is exceptional,” he said.
“But it took the group a bit of time to understand and get used to the way Cheeks goes about things – once the group was able to do that, they were able to buy into the way he led.
“He’ll continually say ‘trust me, trust me’, and I guess the outcome has supported his actions – more often than not he’ll make decisions and they’d work. He was able to gain the group’s trust.
“We just complimented each other well – we’ve got really similar philosophies on the game and at no time did we step on each other’s toes, we knew the boundaries.
“We may have some advice every now and then, but we did it the right way, it’s just a mutual respect.”
With the Turf 1 grand final between Berwick and Buckley Ridges cancelled last season due to Covid-19 and as a result the Bears crowned champions after finishing atop the table, Carr said that there was an element of disappointment about not getting the chance to play on the biggest weekend of all.
“If you ask any of the players, as satisfying as it is to win the premiership under whatever circumstances, the players would have wanted to have played the grand final,” he said.
“Obviously its out of our control, and I suppose its the benefit of finishing on top of the table, you don’t know what’s going to happen.
“The boys would have preferred to play the grand final.”
So just how does coaching a flag differ from playing in one?
“It is different, and its different again because of the circumstances, not seeing the winning runs or seeing the final wicket on that day,” he said.
“However, it’s a different satisfaction – at the same time, I got as much satisfaction out of this one than I did as a player.”
Now as a premiership coach, as well as a player after growing up at the club as a kid, Carr said it was an honour to be able to give back to a club that’s given him so much.
“The club, it’s over 150 years old now, it’s been such a great club for so long now, and it did so much for me,” he said.
“It helped shape me personally to become the person I grew up to be, and also the player that I grew up to be.
“I’ve got a lot to thank the Berwick Cricket Club for, they’ve done so much for me personally, and to have the opportunity to give something back, and having that level of control as coach, you’ve got the opportunity to shape things the way you believe.
“It’s not just about the Turf 1 success, we had four senior sides all feature in finals.
“To see how much the club has come on in the last three years across the board, it’s very satisfying.”