Brendan Vanderdonk has seen the coaching game change before his eyes.
When he was playing in a successful era at Tatura, which included the 1998 premiership, training before Christmas in the preseason was unheard of.
Clubs would not even think about opening their gear sheds until January.
By the time he was coaching Tatura in 2014 after being a long-time assistant, and then co-coaching at Shepparton United in 2015, the game had changed.
‘‘The preseasons back then would start probably the second or third week in January, but then it was full-on three nights a week from there,’’ Vanderdonk said.
‘‘The demands now for coaches are it’s virtually a full-time job and clubs have to run like businesses because of how much money is involved.’’
Vanderdonk believes club loyalty has almost disappeared from football, with players simply chasing the lure of the dollar.
That, in turn, has made the job of a country football coach much harder.
‘‘Blokes now want way too much money for what they’re worth,’’ Vanderdonk said.
‘‘The loyalty is no longer there because you see guys play clubs off against each other.
‘‘It’s very rare now to see a group of guys stick together because they want to win a flag; you probably have seen that a bit with Kyabram the last couple of years.
‘‘There’s always change from year to year in personnel, but that’s out of your control and unfortunately a lot of it is driven by money.’’
Vanderdonk is still involved at interleague level in the Goulburn Valley League, having been again appointed as an assistant to Luke Morgan after helping out in the game against Ovens and Murray last year.
He is still interested in being an assistant, but the time and pressure demands mean he is unlikely to get back into a head coaching job any time soon.
‘‘The demand has become huge for country footy and at the end of the day, it is country footy and not the AFL,’’ Vanderdonk said.
‘‘If you’re premiers or making finals, you might only get six to eight weeks off and then it’s into the preseason.
‘‘You’re still recruiting during the season and in the off-season and you might speak to 15 to 20 blokes and get two or three.
‘‘But with recruiting, the respect isn’t there as much because you call blokes, you leave a message and some of them don’t even have the decency to call you back.
‘‘A lot of it now relies on guys bringing mates up with each other and going from there.’’
Vanderdonk estimated he dedicated more than 30 hours a week to football during the season, including sometimes 11- or 12-hour days on a Saturday.
‘‘You’re the senior coach so you really want to be there at the start of the thirds to support them and watch the younger guys go around,’’ Vanderdonk said.
‘‘You’ve obviously got the game and after that you are probably there until about 8.30 at night and that’s if you haven’t got a function on.
‘‘Ten or 11 months of the year you’re pretty deep into football and it can take a strain on your family life.
‘‘My wife was good about it, even though she hated footy, she was able to leave me alone when I had to focus on footy and just get it done.
‘‘But it’s important to choose your attitude when you come in the door because it’s not great if you’re getting smashed every week and you’re coming home in a bad mood.’’
Vanderdonk is thankful for the time he spent under Steve Daniel, who coached Tatura’s most recent premiership in 2012.
Daniel departed after the flag, with Scott Grigg taking over in 2013 before Vanderdonk stepped into the top job the following year.
The Bulldogs made a semi-final that year, losing to eventual premier Shepparton Swans, before a bizarre situation saw Tatura look for other options.
Vanderdonk was eventually offered his job again during a drawn-out saga, but quit due to the pressure the uncertainty surrounding his position had created.
‘‘SJ (Steve Daniel) was good because he’d put the onus on you and he’d give you responsibility, but at the same time, that would take pressure off him as well,’’ Vanderdonk said.
‘‘His professionalism rubbed off on everyone else and the assistants did their job and that allowed SJ to simply coach.
‘‘It was probably similar at Seymour having the success there too, he probably was ahead of the game in taking country footy coaching to a higher and more professional level.’’