CASTLEMAINE captain Zach Hansford believes sacked coach Rod Keogh had the Magpies headed in the right direction.
The Magpies this week sacked Keogh just two rounds into his first season at the helm of the Bendigo Football League club.
While the Magpies started 2013 with a pair of losses, the signs were evident in their first two games under Keogh that they were on track for a much more competitive season than recent years.
But Castlemaine announced on Thursday it was sacking Keogh because of “different visions regarding the future direction of the club.”
The Magpies’ new coach is Brett Fitzpatrick, who takes charge of the club for the first time today at home against Kangaroo Flat.
Hansford said yesterday the decision to replace Keogh had come as a shock to the playing group.
“It wasn’t our choice... we were right behind Rod through the pre-season and didn’t have any problems,” Hansford said.
“Everyone was really keen to have a crack, and after the performance against Eaglehawk last week (15-point defeat), everyone was up and about and it was a taste of what we were going to play like through the year.
“Our gameplans we had were the best we’ve had in years.
“We had set structures through the centre of the ground and stoppages that we’ve never had before.
“It has come as a shock. We had high expectations coming into the year, and still had them yesterday before the announcement.
Even though a new coach is coming in, we’ll keep the same mindset of sticking together and wanting to improve.
“A lot of things have happened over the years with new coaches, coaches leaving during the year, and that has made us stronger as a group.
“We’ll work through it together and I know a lot of us want to come out this weekend, put in our best effort and, hopefully, get that win on the board.”
Since the announcement of the coaching change, there has been speculation of some players considering their future at the club.
However, 21-year-old Hansford – in his first season as captain – hasn’t heard any such talk.
“I don’t know anything about that,” Hansford said.
“We had a conversation last night and I asked the players what they thought of it and how they were going.
“They were all keen to keep going. The boys we got from Melbourne were down last night and giving it a good crack on the training track with us.
“We had a jumper presentation last night and there was no sign of anyone going.”
New coach Fitzpatrick played in Castlemaine’s 1992 premiership team and previously coached the BFL’s inter-league team from 2005 to 2008.
“He’s a local, so most of the boys know him,” Hansford said.
“Last night we trained well. We had 40-odd blokes on the track and a lot of young blokes got a bit of excitement back into them.”
Fitzpatrick is a member of the Central Victoria Football Commission, but will resign.
“The commission respects Brett’s decision in accepting the offer from Castlemaine,” commission chairman Collin Brady said.
“He is a great football person who has served grassroots footy with distinction, as well as at a broader regional level.
“Given the official capacity he now holds with Castlemaine, Brett will resign as a commissioner. We are keen to have Brett back in an official capacity should his circumstances change.”
The Bendigo Advertiser has been unable to contact Castlemaine president Jeff Halacas.