If ever there was a club in the South Australian Men’s Football League that can guarantee teams play with that ‘do or die’ attitude…its Cumberland United. The Club has etched itself a reputation for performing in a consistent and competitive manner, with hard fought matches and players wearing their ‘hearts on their sleeves’. One thing is certain though, no matter how good the opposition it has faced, the result has never been a forgone conclusion.
Cumberland or The Foxes as they are better known first appeared in 1941 and are one of the oldest football clubs in South Australia. The Club was originally set up as a District Club catering for those in the surrounding inner southern suburbs and to this day has remained true to its origins and foundation. Competition for the club first came in fielding junior teams leading up to their first senior game played in May of 1943. Various grounds in the local area were used until they undertook the major move in 1951 to Bailey Reserve, the Foxes Den where it still remains today. Even the colours that the club has chosen to play in ‘green and gold’ reflect the local Mitcham Council the district to which the club belongs so its all about staying loyal to the local community.
Since its beginnings The Foxes have competed in various tournaments and won some silverware, the most significant being in 1978 when they did the double winning both the League Championship and Federation Cup. This was highly regarded because up to that time only 10 clubs had ever achieved that feat including the highly successful ones. Over the years the Club has fluctuated with successes moving between the top two leagues, dropping to the 2nd division only on a handful of occasions and never for more than a year or two.
Junior football has always been at the forefront of the club and has grown continually with 32 teams competing in the 2013 season. This development of young players is the clubs strength and a focus area that coaches are able to draw upon.
This season there was a big turnaround with the Foxes having a stellar season, becoming the ‘giant killers’ as such. The never say die attitude of the Foxes saw them successfully defeat MetroStars (2013 Minor Premiers) and Damian Mori’s Adelaide City in both the home and away matches and Adelaide City in the Semi Finals. This accomplishment may have something to do with the coach they have on board Michael Brooks, a man who is no stranger to success and high achievement. Nominated into the SA Football Hall Of Fame in 2010, his career racked up 279 games scoring 202 goals in the local SA league. Add to that an additional 136 games in the National Soccer league and 23 games representing SA (15 of those as Captain). Michael has won 4 SA Championship Medals 1993, 1995, 2000 & 2001, 4 Golden Boot Awards 1996, 2000 2001 & 2002 and has won 5 club Best Player Awards and was awarded the Sergio Melta Medal for the SA Player of the Year in 1996.
I took the time to ask Michael about the 2013 season.
What made you apply for the coaching position in the first instance?
“I applied for the position because I was ready and wanted to Coach at Senior level. I met the Exec Committee and it just felt like that is where I wanted to be”
What was the first area you were able to identify that you felt you could contribute to, improve and turn around?
“The Playing Philosophy had to change and with that came new disciplines, Dedication, Recovery, Performance to name a few.”
Player acquisition – did you buy in new players or look at developing younger club players?
“I got in Ryan Moore and Johnny Moore both elder statesman as we only had Jim Stavrides with any sort of experience. My Captain is 25 but the remaining squad of 15-16 players are aged between 16-21 & approx 10 of those are Cumby Juniors, so we weren’t afraid to develop what was there but needed some older heads to help the kids develop, while being competitive.”
You have been a champion yourself and a SA Football Hall of Famer…..that must have inspired some of your players into lifting the standard of their own game? Have you passed on any of that winning feeling experience on to your players and how?
“First of all being a good or great player gives you no right to be a great Coach. They had respect for my knowledge, but I had to sell my philosophy to them and have them buy in to it and with hard work we were able to achieve. My passion is what I have added to the squad, but the players have taken out instructions brilliantly.”
The Club is rich in history…how have you been able to pass this on to you players?
We had a 35 year Reunion for the 78 League and Cup Winners, at one of our Games. We introduced them to the current playing group so they could get a better understanding of the history of the Club. It was an outstanding day.
The team did very well getting to the finals and defeating Adelaide City…..how did you feel how did the players feel?
Naturally very happy that we had won our first final as a group, but we all wanted more and weren’t content or happy with just the one win. We felt like we let an opportunity slip when we lost on penalties to Campbelltown, with a 16 year old taking the 5th penalty and scoring.
What would you say has been the most satisfying thing for you this year?
Most satisfying feeling has been seeing this young group develop and mature from the beginning of the season, to reaching the Finals in our first year.
What plans do you have for next season if you manage to retain your players as I know they are being poached already.
Yes Clubs are trying to poach our players, but we believe that the coaching and the playing environment we have created will help us to compete and keep our players with us. We are playing like a top side so the desire for players to leave just isn’t there, as we have been able to keep those that were trying to be poached.
Before the end of the season Cumberland United reappointed Brooks for 2014 with Club president Tom Schoen giving him much praise.
“We are extremely proud to announce that Brooksy will continue with us in 2014. His tireless efforts and achievements to date have created a seamless pathway of development for our footballers, particularly the development of the great young talent which has and will continue to come through the senior ranks. Brooksy’s professionalism, experience and 100% commitment to the club goes hand-in-hand with Cumberland’s long term objectives of becoming a power house within the National Premier League”.
The 2013 Football Federation of South Australia Football Awards were held on the 27th September 2013 and I am so proud to announce that Jim Stavrides from Cumberland United was joint winner of the Sergio Melta Player of the Year Award with Tony Hatzis and Michael Brooks was awarded the Premier league Coach of the Year…..well done and well deserved and just goes to show hard work really does pay off!
With these rewards we look forward to bigger and better things in season 2014