From Ballarat Courier
Reported by Melanie Whelan
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IN A tribute normally bestowed on champion players, the North Ballarat Roosters chaired their coach Gerard FitzGerald from the field on Saturday.
The triple premiership coach chalked up a 14-point win against Sandringham for his 300th game at the helm in the Victorian Football League.
He achieves a milestone feat only shared by legendary VFA coach and former South Melbourne star Bill Faul in the league’s 136-year history.
The Roosters playing group gathered on-field near the players’ race looking up at the coaches’ box and applauding FitzGerald as he emerged.
Leaders Myles Sewell and Steve Clifton called out to FitzGerald that they wanted to chair him off the ground.
When FitzGerald hesitated – he did not want to risk player injuries for a bumper match against Geelong next week – they told him the players were not going anywhere until he accepted the gesture.
FitzGerald looked up, saw the playing group looking on expectantly, and could hardly refuse.
But the greatest gift, FitzGerald said, was the way in which his players had attacked the game.
“Their intensity level was great, but I knew they’d have a real go at it – it was the ultimate demonstration of faith we could win,” he said.
“At dinner the night before, I said to the playing group the greatest gift I could be given was the boys playing well and, ultimately, win.
“Remove the emotion of it, this milestone would have been nothing like the same if we had’ve lost.
“It was such an important game for our season.”
FitzGerald said it meant a great deal to mark the milestone in Ballarat.
He has coached VFL rivals Springvale (2003) and Port Melbourne (2004) in between coaching stints with the Roosters (1997-2002 and since 2007) but unashamedly calls Ballarat his home.
It has been a rollercoaster journey for FitzGerald, who started in lean years at the Roosters before taking the club to two grand finals in his first stint.
He led Springvale to finals, Port Melbourne to a grand final and returned to the Roosters after two years with a successful North Ballarat Rebels in the TAC Cup.
He then helped build the Roosters’ dynasty, with three consecutive VFL premierships from 2008 to 2010.
FitzGerald has also coached the VFL to interstate victories.
Already, FitzGerald has quickly turned his focus to what the Roosters can achieve this season.
He believes that with a bit of momentum, they can break into the eight.