Sport

Benalla Football Club signs new senior football coach

By Meg Saultry

Benalla is getting the band back together, with premiership player Jake Pallpratt set to return to his hometown club after signing on for his first senior coaching role with the Saints.

Pallpratt will gear up to steer the Saints for the next two seasons, with the 25-year-old looking to take them back to finals football after the club just missed out on a top six finish through percentage this year.

The local product is no stranger to the footballing community in Benalla, having risen through the ranks of Benalla’s junior leagues before playing with the Murray Bushrangers and joining the Saints.

And he’s slowly been building his coaching credentials too, taking on the Saints' senior assistant role in 2016, as well as an assistant role at Bendigo club Sandhurst this season.

Speaking to the Benalla Ensign this week, Pallpratt said while there were some initial nerves ahead of accepting the gig, the overriding feeling was excitement.

"It was something that’d I’d never know unless I tried, I couldn’t be more excited, I can’t wait," he said. 

"I suppose it was an exciting opportunity with a young list, and a real chance at a bit of success over the next few years.

"And being from Benalla, being closer with friends and family, makes the decision a bit easier.

"There is no other club that feels like home."

And it was an appointment that really came about quite quickly, Pallpratt said, with the process coming together “within three-to-four weeks”, after initial talks with club president Lloyd Johnson.

Pallpratt will take the reins from outgoing coach James Martiniello, though the long-time Saint will continue at the club in a playing capacity.

"Jimmy got to a stage, with three kids under the age of two, it was a massive time commitment," Pallpratt said.

"I’ve been talking with Jimmy, he’s very supportive."

And Pallpratt is also set to put on the red, white and black jumper himself, returning to his traditional post on the half-back line, where he proved influential in the Saints' premiership tilt in 2015.

Since then, Pallpratt’s won a best-and-fairest at Sandhurst last year, even though he missed 2016 and 2017 with an ACL injury and staph infection.

While Benalla’s off-season started a little earlier than those at the club may have liked, Pallpratt is confident the Saints can push back up the ladder.

"We’re a young list, we’ll be looking to add a few to that, past players, people I’ve got a connection with who can play good senior footy," Pallpratt said.

"I think we underachieved (this year), but injury played a part and we’ll look to get a strong list together.

"If we can get a strong list, the sky is the limit."

And the Saints have already gone about announcing the key re-signing of Nick Warnock and Chris Welsh, which Pallpratt said was key to the Saints' 2020 campaign.

"We’ll definitely be looking to add those leaders, and locals will be the key, so we can be training twice a week," he said.