Former Adelaide Crow AFL player Chris Ladhams has been named the 2018 playing coach of the Naracoorte Football Club.
The Demons have been on the lower end of the ladder for the last few seasons now, but the 36-year-old told the Herald today that he’s looking towards his youth to rebuild that strong culture.
“I’ve heard they’ve had a couple of bad years, but I’m not going to go there and wave a magic wand and it’s all going to happen, it’s just going to happen with some hard work and some development from the kids,” Ladhams said.
“I’m under no illusions that yes, we’re going to lose some games, but I know that if I can get 50 to 60 games into the kids that have been playing A grade, and if I can get them up to 50 to 100 games, the better they’ll be in years to come.
"And I hope they can get some wins on the board and some confidence around the club and get a good culture around the club that they can play finals regularly in, hopefully, one to two years and get them to where they should be.”
Ladhams played 54 games for the Crows, before spending time at North Adelaide in the SANFL, Nhill, Nightcliff in the Northern Territory, Coolamon in the Riverina Football League, Nhill and Ironbank Cherry Gardens, before settling at Nairne.
The journeyman likened the Demons’ current predicament to his time in Nairne Bremer, where he was playing assistant coach and played a key role in the side rising up the ladder to their first premiership since 1989.
“If you play your locals, play your kids and you actually get some recruits that are going to teach them and develop them I think the culture of your football club is in good stead,” Ladhams said.
Ladhams said he’s keeping an eye out for a couple of key recruits, but stressed his focus was developing locals.
“I have been asking around to the right people that I want to bring to the club – that’s not 100 per cent what I want to do,” he said.
“If I can get recruits I will, but I’m all about developing that football club, the A grade list and also helping out their development and their junior program to make sure their future’s bright and for years to come.
“If you look after the junior program as well parents are happy and kids will stay in town and they could be 200-game players for the Naracoorte Football Club, and that's what I’m seeing my coaching and development will do.”
Communing to Naracoorte from Mount Barker, Ladhams said he, his wife Kelly and children, Lily, 10, and Austyn, 5, are “very excited” about the appointment and he hopes he can still help the young side out.
“I don’t run as fast anymore, but I still think I can help them out when I can on the weekends,” Ladhams said.
“Hopefully I can get a few senior blokes back, and some local blokes that I’m going to try and get back, to help the young list out and turn them back into the powerhouse that they were.
“I’m looking forward to seeing what the Naracoorte Football Club want to do and what they stand for.”
Ladhams said he’s heard good things about the KNTFL, adding he looks forward to playing against some “old mates” like Padthaway playing coach Scott Welsh, Keith’s Ben Simounds and Kaniva/Leeor’s Toby Stribling.
“I enjoy country football – I love giving back to grassroots because obviously you don’t become an AFL or an SANFL player if you don’t have good grass roots,” he said.
“It’s a pretty strong league, a lot of good players have gone there, there’s some pretty strong clubs, so I’m really looking forward to it.”
Ladhams replaces Brett Gould as coach of the Demons.