Maroondah's chances of going back-to-back in 2023 have improved drastically this week after reappointing Tom Debuf to the position of first grade head coach.
After eight years holding the clipboard, the Level 3 trained coach celebrated his greatest triumph in the role when he guided the Griffins to the Premiership Reserves title in August.
Now, with a target firmly on their backs, Debuf reveals how his Griffins will stay one step ahead of their opponents in 2023.
Rugby Victoria (RV): Eight years as Griffins Head Coach! Where does the motivation come from after such a long tenure and straight after claiming the holy grail of a premiership?
Tom Debuf (TD): I’m always excited by new challenges, so I always set myself goals and appreciate just how lucky we all are to be part of the team.
There’s no “end point,” we are continually writing the next chapter for the club. Yes, we won the premiership, but also, we have some really talented young players who now have a chance to take the club forward.
Our juniors numbers are growing. Right now, the challenge I’m excited about is building that juniors, seniors, masters pathway/alignment.
RV: Thinking back to your first season in the hot seat, would you have recognised the coach you've become today? Or has your coaching style remained pretty similar after almost a decade in charge?
TD: I was player/coach for a long time. If I’m being honest, probably for too long.
My coaching has improved since I have devoted myself single-mindedly to coaching. The best indicator from that is the feedback I have gotten from the team, numbers at training have improved every year.
In terms of style, I simply want to challenge the team every session as much as possible. Keep them moving, learning and improving
RV: It seems like a great culture you have out at Maroondah. How has the culture of the place evolved since you started there?
TD: We are all about getting stuck in on and off the field and have fun doing it, that will never change.
We have worked on connecting with our past and where we have come from as a club, there’s 50 years of proud history, that everyone needs to know about and connect with.
RV: We understand you've started your level three certificate. What's been the biggest lesson you've gleaned from that coaching course which you're looking to implement this season?
TD: Getting accepted into the level three course was a goal of mine and I was very proud to be accepted.
To learn from Grips (Michael Magripilas) and Ferg (Gerg Fergus) over two days and to learn from Dewar Shield coaches and hearing how they prepare and train was unreal for me.
If I had to give one thing I’ve learned, it would be the level of detail and preparation that you need. That’s a philosophy that I will use every day in my coaching for the rest of my career.
RV: Following on from a premiership, is 2023 about repeating what you did last season or do you have to implement a whole new on field strategy for the new campaign? How will your game plan evolve?
TD: Obviously we would like to repeat some parts of the season and go back to back! But that is every team’s goal isn’t it?
For me, it comes down to how much we prepare, and then how hard we work.
At the Griffins our rugby philosophy is that we’re the best at doing the basics. It might sounds simple, but it makes the difference, and it got us to the top spot. So we’ll keep staying true to that.
And maybe add a few sneaky things into the mix to keep our opponents on their toes!