K rock Football

Smooth transition for St Albans

New St Albans coach Alex Tortora. (Sports Media Image/Marcel Berens)

A RECOMMENDATION from a former AFL coach has helped St Albans find a replacement for senior coach Ben Patrick without interruption to its pre-season.

A chat between Supersaints president Craig Osborne and ex-Western Bulldogs mentor and local great Brendan McCartney has seen Alex Tortora elevated to the top job only weeks after being appointed as midfield coach.

After Patrick informed St Albans he had been offered the position as senior assistant coach at VFL club Port Melbourne on Monday, Osborne quickly swung into action to find a replacement.

A conversation with McCartney proved the catalyst for Tortora, who works alongside the local coaching great at Western Heights College and heads up the local campus of the Alex Rance Academy, to be spirited into the vacant role.

“During that conversation, Alex’s name came up,” Osborne said. “The next morning, I was flying to Sydney, and I texted Alex and said we needed to chat.

“I put forward the idea of coaching to him, and there was silence at the other end of the phone, which I was a bit nervous about.

“That silence was a bit of excitement and just thinking about it all.

“That was Tuesday, and on Wednesday, we agreed to terms and appointed Alex as our new senior coach.”

A qualified teacher, Tortora played with both the Northern Knights and Calder Cannons in the early days of the TAC Cup before joining VFL club Coburg, playing 58 senior games.

He then joined Essendon and District League club Greenvale where he featured in multiple premierships.

Tortora, who also has a stint in recruiting with Essendon on his resume, was thankful for McCartney’s recommendation.

“We’ve spent a bit of time together,” he said.

“We coached the school football team together, and he allowed me to take the reins, and he guided me a little bit there.

“I’m learning from him every day. You have to learn from people, and I enjoy that aspect of it.

After a winless 2021 campaign and the departure of three of the four co-winners of the club’s best-and-fairest, Tortora is under no illusion as to the task in front of him.

However, he’s excited by the prospect of improving the Supersaints’ fortunes.

“I’ve had a few different coaches, so I’ve got a few different ideas,” he said.

“With my role in the Alex Rance Academy, I’m working with young players who are hellbent on getting better.

“I’m working in the game nearly full-time, you could say, so I’m always thinking about it.

“I’m always thinking about how the game works, and how to communicate, feedback, that type of stuff.

“I feel like that aspect of it is probably my strength, and having a young group at St Albans was extra appealing to me.”

Osborne said Patrick departed with the club’s blessing.

“Whilst it’s disappointing, I always come from the position that if we can allow people to grow – whether they’re footballers or coaches – and allow them to go up the pathway,” he said.

“I shook his hand and said, “congratulations”.

Twitter: @tom_king79