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Jacob Surjan talks footy, life and 19th man saga

JH: Your playing days at Port came to an end in 2012, did you look elsewhere?

JS: I spoke to a few clubs, but it was all chat I guess.

I was coming off a bad knee operation, I felt like my time was up and the last two years under Matty probably drained me of footy and I didn’t pursue the AFL stuff as much as I probably could’ve, I was pretty content to call it then and do something different.

Luckily enough for me I go the opportunity to stay in Adelaide and work at the footy club as the talent manager and also play for the Magpies.

But once my job commitments away from footy stepped up I just gave up on playing footy, and I was content with that and thought there’s more to life than kicking a pig skin on grass.

PHOTO: Port Adelaide Football Club – Facebook.

JH: What made you want to coach?

JS: I had always put things into plan, some football administration at the end.

Coaching came along, I wanted to help the younger guys like the Dean Baileys and the Mark Williams’, the guys who helped me when I was coming through.

I always wanted to stay in footy, I love footy, I think it’s a great industry to work in, and it’s just something I wanted to pursue.

It was never I just want to be a coach, coach, coach, I wanted to get into administration and then put my toe in the water a little bit with the Magpies and found out it was something I really loved and wanted to do.

I still enjoy the administration side, but the coaching side is better, not only trying to influence games to try and win games of football, but to help guys improve their general game is something I look forward to. 

JH: You moved across to North Adelaide in 2017 – how did it come about?

JS: I had a pretty frank discussion with Ken Hinkley and Chris Davies at Port, and we probably all felt my time was up there, I arrived there as an 18-year-old and left there in my early 30s, and probably needed to experience something different at that time.

I probably wanted to step up my coaching in some capacity there and there wasn’t anything available there, and fortunately Josh Carr rang me up and said he had this opportunity at the Roosters and if I was interested, and I said 100%.

We had a chat, had an interview and within a couple of days I had a fresh start at the Roosters.

It’s been brilliant, we’ve won the premiership in the league and the reserves, which is the first time in 28 years for the league, and I coached the reserves as a part of my job.

I don’t think the club in its 14 premierships it’s won has ever done that.

To come here in my first year and help Josh achieve what he wanted to achieve which was to win a premiership was just a great moment that we had together.

Because at the end of the day when you’re at an AFL club, you’re a part of a coaching group that’s 10, 11 or 12 blokes, where here it’s myself and Josh that are full-time running everything with a couple of assistant coaches who come and help out on training days and game days.

The onus is on me and him to get the job done, and to get that done in our first year, after we’d changed up a fair bit, was just a dream come true.

JH: Obviously there was a lot of scrutiny around the preliminary final last year, what was it like in build-up with the amount of outside noise?

JS: It was pretty full on to be honest.

Josh (Carr) was at the hearing and he’d be texting me every five, 10, 15 minutes saying, ‘I think we’re out’, and I was sitting at home and just going ‘oh my god, this can’t happen’.

It was really disappointing how it all went down on game day, it was obviously an accident that just happened.

For it to go down the process that it did especially with the rules in place was disappointing and nothing happened in that space.

To get the opportunity to play in the grand final, which we deserved, we were 47 points down, and to come back to win, you shouldn’t really lose from that position in a prelim final.

We came back, we won the game…fairly.

Which on grand final day showed, we played with the tenacity and a passion to prove everyone that we were the best team.

I felt we were best team all year as we were 9-2 and all teams have a bumpy period, but we felt like we were the best team.

The writing is on the wall a bit when you see five guys drafted out of our program, Connor Rozee has done what he’s done at Port Adelaide which has been fantastic, Cal Wilkie is one of the best drop off marks in the AFL, Robbie Young is playing with the Saints with his pressure and speed.

Boyd Woodcock and Jordon Sweet are playing well with their clubs as well.

JH: Was it something that you used as motivation in the lead up to the day or as a pre-match speech?

JS: I don’t think so, once it all happened, Josh and I spoke to the guys on the Tuesday and we just said, who cares boys, we’ll deal with what we have to deal with next year, but right now, let’s go win a grand final and that’s the way it was.

JH: What do you remember the most about grand final day?

JS: Well it was interesting because the reserves are playing first, where I’m coaching.

So, there was nerves and excitement as a coach, but for me, that was probably the one day where it’s not about trying to develop our players, it’s trying to win.

Choco rang me up on the Wednesday and said to me ‘good luck and I hope you guys get up,’ and he goes ‘don’t underestimate how important it is for your team to win on Sunday.’

I asked him ‘why’s that Choco’ and he said, ‘the boys will notice it in the change rooms when they’re watching the game, it’ll make them feel good.’

I didn’t think of it too much, we have an ethos here that the reserves are more about development than about winning, but once we got to the big dance, it was all about winning, and it will put good feelings into the league boys.

I don’t know if it worked or not, but it obviously did.

It was a great day, being in the box for my game and winning, then holding that excitement for the next game, and then going through that.

We felt like we controlled the whole game except for a bit of the first quarter and the middle part of the second quarter.

We felt like after half-time it was our game.

One of the strengths in our team was our fitness, and we thought we were fitter than them and in that last quarter it came down to that and we got the chocolates.

Norwood had been a fantastic team all year and they’re a fantastic club and we had to be at our best to beat them.

They have the likes of Jace Bode, and a few guys who have won two or three flags, they’ve had that success under Nathan Bassett in 2012-14, and we were just fortunate enough our guys were hungry enough to win one.

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Jack grew up in Gawler, South Australia – just 45 minutes north of Adelaide – and has a passion for all things football and soccer. Jack has worked in the media for more than four years, and hosts his own sports show on Barossa radio station BBBfm. He previously played football for Elizabeth, South Gawler, Gawler Central and at junior level with Central District, and is a die-hard Port Adelaide fan.