People of Frankston: Tim McGibney

By Will Jeffares

The two-hour round trip from Drouin to Kinetic Stadium and back is one that Senior Assistant Coach Tim McGibney makes multiple times a week to undertake his duties as the Dolphins’ Midfield Coach.

Hailing from the Gippsland region, McGibney has both playing and coaching history in the area. Before joining Frankston, he was also a part of the coaching set-up at the Casey Demons in both their VFL and VFLW, before returning to the

Gippsland area to coach locally.

Now entering his second season at the Club and working under new Senior Coach Jackson Kornberg, McGibney spoke to Marc Ablett on the Club’s official podcast, The POD-CAST, and opened up on his journey from playing to coaching, the difficulties he has faced and their impacts, as well as delving into his own style and philosophy when it comes to coaching.

For McGibney, the long journey from home to Frankston is one that he is happy to make, especially to an area and Club that he has become attached to in his time as part of the Dolphins’ coaching staff.

“Obviously, I trek a little bit with the travel (to Frankston) but you know that’s what you’ve got to do when, for one, you love a Club, which I’ve grown to love Frankston in my time here and, also, if you want opportunity and you live down in Gippsland, there’s not much of it,” he said.

Beginning his coaching locally back home, McGibney’s journey has taken him through several footballing programs, including a stint at the Casey Demons where he coached nearly every line in his time there across both the VFL and VFLW, before originally joining Frankston in 2020, however, the COVID-19 Pandemic forced the season to be cancelled.

“(I coached) Midfield in (the) Development League, Development League got disbanded and the VFLW came to fruition. Forward line for the VFL, backline for the VFLW,” he said.

“I had a couple of interviews with VFL clubs and some AFL clubs and the feedback I continually got was that I hadn’t coached my own program.

“So back to the drawing board. I went down to coach Traralgon in the Gippsland League, coached Bunyip in the West Gippsland League with an eye of always getting back in and continuing my journey.

“I actually came back to Frankston in 2020, when (the season) got COVID-cancelled under Danny Ryan, so I came in a bit later when the season got up again and they were going to do a 10-round carnival league or something like that.

“Then it got canned, and I went back to local. I ended up coaching Bunyip for a couple of years and then back to Frankston last year.”

Like many young footballers, McGibney had early aspirations of playing professionally growing up. However, that would all be taken away from him at an early age after two serious neck injuries at local level put his playing career to a premature and devastating end.

“I had to find another means; I was busting around a little bit at ‘Gippy’ Power but I was never a superstar. I was working really hard and fighting for anything that I got and made a couple of teams and was always training,” McGibney said.

“It was always my goal to play AFL and to play VFL and all the rest but that under 18 year, I broke my neck playing for Warragul in the seniors.

“(I was) stupid, just naïve. I was meant to have, obviously, a long time off. Probably like two years or never play again. But I had dreams, and I was in a hurry, so I came back pretty early.

“I missed that season that I broke my neck and tried to get myself right for round one of the next season.

“I think my first game back, pretty sure was against Drouin, which is a massive, massive rivalry down our way – I re-fractured my vertebrates.

“That second one was definitely the end to the football career.”

While McGibney’s career in football has now shifted off the field, he understands first-hand just how quickly the game can be taken from you. His injuries and the experiences he gained now play a large role in his coaching and communication with the playing group.

“What I try to remind the boys is that it can be taken from you and that’s got a deeper meaning with life as well,” he said.

“Your football career, it’s a short one. Anyone that did get a football career and played it through, still, will say that it was short and that’s the best-case scenario.

“The worst-case scenario is that it never really kicks off and that’s what I try to talk to these boys about is just enjoying every day that they’re in at the club, every game. There’s going to be wins, there’s going to be losses, there’s going to be challenges, and there’s going to be successes.

“At any moment it could be taken from you, your career. So, enjoy it, don’t be too hard on yourself, try to grow every day and just see where it leads, but just enjoy the journey.”

As a coach, McGibney’s main focus is on building and strengthening personal relationships with his players, an area that has made him a much-loved figure during his time at the Club, labelling his “one wood” as being both “authentic and being vulnerable”.

“Vulnerability is an important piece because you get young men, or not even young men in some cases, men. You stand in front of them, and you ask them to trust you. You ask them to listen to what you are saying and go execute,” McGibney said.

“So, to build that trust and that connection where I can come down and challenge someone at quarter-time, I only get that from giving them something at some point and being vulnerable and them knowing that I care about them, and I care about their journey. I care that they’ve got a family watching them over the fence.

“I understand that they’re out there putting their body on the line and they’re not perfect.

“They’ve got to understand that they’re going to make mistakes. They’re not always going to execute what we want them to execute, and they still need to make sure that they’re safe and they’re cared for.

“You only get that if you give them something back and if I’m just always standing in front of them with a hard edge, hammering down on executing and having a crack and all that crap. Then it just doesn’t mean anything to them, they don’t connect to it and they just go out on the ground and do what they need to do anyway.

Tim McGibney is an integral part of an impressive coaching group assembled at Frankston in 2024

“I think authenticity and vulnerability are probably what I would hang my hat on.”

For many players in the system, being a part of the VFL or VFLW programs means juggling several lifestyle commitments including work and family while maintaining the professional standards required for their footballing careers. McGibney expressed his admiration towards players who do so, highlighting that their dedication is more than what meets the public eye. 

“They’re balancing and juggling the same things that I am, that the assistant coaches are in a part-time environment,” he said.

“It’s tricky but they’re part-time players that want to be full-time and we’ve got to try and give them that experience whilst also acknowledging that they’re humans on the other side of it.

“What these players have to do to have a successful VFL part-time career is enormous. It goes beyond what anyone sees.

“These boys are tradies, or they’re studying. They’re getting home at 9:30 at night and they’re not, in most cases, whacking on the TV.

“Some of them are and unwinding, but some of them are meal-prepping to make sure their nutrition is right and that their well-being is right.

“Some of them are going home and doing meditation or doing mental wellness stuff to ensure they’re ready for the next day. So, it is not even just the surface-level stuff that we see, there’s so much more.

“The amount of layers of stuff that these boys and girls now as well, with the VFLW, have to do to be professional athletes in a part-time environment is crazy.”

This season, the Dolphins have several new faces pulling on the jumper in 2024, but a new season also brings several opportunities for familiar faces to push for bigger roles in the side.

One player in particular is Seb Quirk, who has grasped the chance to play larger midfield minutes with both hands early in 2024. A positive pre-season and two impressive performances in the opening rounds of the Smithy’s VFL season from Quirk has turned heads early.

Quirk was the joint-leading disposal winner on the ground in Frankston’s round one defeat to Williamstown, collecting 26 disposals, before following it up in the side’s convincing victory over Port Melbourne with another 24 touches.

In charge of the midfield, McGibney said Quirk’s integration into the Dolphins’ engine room rotation this season is a credit to his hard work and dedication as he looks to build on his fine early form.

“I love Seb. We’ve been working really closely, Seb and I, and again not always about football.

Seb Quirk is benefiting from more midfield minutes now in his second season under Tim McGibney in the midfield.

“There’s lots of football stuff we work on but Seb having the confidence to come out of his shell and start believing in himself, I think, has been a big thing that we have focussed on.

“Last year, we had a very strong midfield in terms of the personnel and how long they’d been at the Club for, and Seb worked really, really hard to build trust and respect in that midfield.

“By the end of that year, he definitely had done it.

“This year looks different and there’s opportunity in there this year. So, the conversation with Seb at the start of pre-season was the time is to take it. I know what he can do, and Seb knows what he can do as well. So, it’s time to step up and take that opportunity.

“I couldn’t be prouder of him.”


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