Luke Taunt is a man known best for his commitment to the cause, who plays beyond his natural capabilities, who leads by example on and off the field (although his love for craft beer has not quite hit the shelves at Charles St) and who is always there. He is just ALWAYS there. Whenever you turn around, there’s Taunta.
But that’s why we adore him so.
His love for this club is undying and as passionate as it is for his fondness for sitting on the couch with a pizza and a Fat Yak, his penchant for having a yarn with his mates, and of course his predilection to engage in cuddles and caresses with his better half, Chelsea.
The bloke is known by many monikers including Wombat, Lieutenant Smash, Lukaboom and LT and more affectionately as Dad by some of his teammates and pupils.
He is a hero to many, a superstar of the local area and an ambitious man chasing an unprecedented third-straight premiership.
I hope to be sitting here in 12 months’ time scribing about the pursuit of a fourth flag on the trot, or even better, reminiscing in 2023 about the time a certain legend emulated the famous Glasgow Rangers of the 1980s and 1990s with nine straight titles.
I guess for now we can only dream and before we really get ahead of ourselves, there is some sense to be heard from a person who is committed to this club. Seriously committed. As committed as James Hird is to the continued denial of reality.
In his first interview back from a weekend away to celebrate Chelsea's Birthday, Taunta sits down with Andrew Slevison for our years first of what will be many player / coach / club legend interview.
Andrew Slevison: Can you explain the feeling of holding aloft the Premiership trophy at Boronia, your second in as many seasons as a coach?
Luke Taunt: Holding the premiership trophy up at the end of the grand final is the best feeling you can have in your sporting career, and to do it twice in 2 years has been amazing. The emotion felt at the final siren was vastly different from the 1st premiership to the 2nd. The 2014 season was very tough with the excess numbers. There was a lot of pressure on me and I had to make some tough decisions during the season and even tougher decisions at finals time.
When the final siren sounded, the feeling was pure relief that I had made the right choices. The 2015 season was the opposite, having to organise last minute fill in’s for most of the season. We weren’t tipped to make finals, and to do so was a massive achievement. We went into every finals game as an underdog, which allowed us to just play footy and enjoy ourselves. When the final siren sounded, the feeling was pure happiness and achievement.
AS: How much emphasis are you placing on going after a 3-peat? Or is it just business as usual and hopefully things take care of themselves?
LT: Getting the 3-peat would be awesome but there will be no emphasis on it at all this year. Firstly (and most boring answer), is developing the reserve players into successful senior players and hopefully getting the seniors into the finals. Other than that, our goals will be winning round one and then aiming to make finals. If we achieve that we’ll reassess and go from there.
AS: What do you put your success as a coach down to? Strong playing group? Good support staff? Or simply L.Taunt brilliance?
LT: If you ask the players, they will say L.Taunt brilliance but I’m a little more modest. The support staff at the club is amazing and I couldn’t have achieved this success without them. One person I have to mention otherwise he would have a sook is Ben Carboni. The support he has given me, along with unifying the playing group and driving a successful culture has been a major factor for our success. I won’t pump him up too much though, as he already has an inflated perception of himself.
Having said all that, the strength of the playing group is remarkable. They always fight until the final siren, thriving under great pressure and the way individuals step up when others are down or injured, drives the success of this team.
AS: Which player has the biggest influence on the playing group? And why?
LT: The player who has the biggest influence on the playing group is James ‘Toey’ Hansen. He is a man of the people who has spent a great deal of time in the seniors as well as the reserves. He leads from the front at training and game day with hard work, dedication and toughness. Although he always polls well in the player MVP as he is highly respected by the entire playing group, the senior coaches need to acknowledge his efforts as he is continually snubbed in the Best & Fairest count.
He is very social off the field too, eagerly participating in club functions, footy trips and even U/19’s birthday parties. His night time persona ‘Bam Bam’ is really inclusive and makes sure everyone has a good time and a laugh.
AS: You have a fairly small stature. Much in the mould of Hawthorn's Alastair Clarkson. Is there a direct correlation between short, stumpy men and Premiership flags?
LT: I usually don’t like being associated with Alastair Clarkson due to his arrogance, hot temper and the fact he is the coach of Hawthorn, but given the stature of Clarkson, Taunt and even Kevin Sheedy, I believe there is a correlation between short, stumpy men and premierships. When God doesn’t give you the physical attributes more commonly related to the Slevisons of this world, such as height, pace, agility, evasiveness, endurance, leaping and being able to kick over 25 metres, you learn to play to your strengths. Your intellect. You learn to play smarter not harder and I guess this has allowed me to view the game at a different angle, turning me into a student of the game.
AS: Are you enjoying the role as player/coach? Do you think worrying about what is happening in the game takes away from your own personal performances? Or are you more prepared to just play your part and lead by example?
LT: I’m loving the role as player coach, I find it easier to coach on the ground as you can immediately talk to a player about bad decisions, tempers and positional changes rather than a filtered message through a runner. You can also see the game differently on the field and notice which players are doing the 1%ers and who aren’t putting in enough. Most of the game plan and tactics are covered prematch with little changes at the breaks. My assistant coaches take care of rotations and match ups during the quarters which allows me to just play football. Although as a coach, I’ve stopped worrying about personal performances and awards, and play my role that best helps the team win games. Winning a game as a coach is a far better feeling than being the best player and losing.
AS: Can you see yourself in the role for a while yet? Do you have senior coaching aspirations?
LT: My coaching future is undecided at the moment. I was offered a senior position at the end of 2014 but turned it down as I wanted to finish my playing days at Waverley. This will probably be my last year as a full-time player and it would be a bit of a change to be coaching on the sidelines full-time if I coach again next year. I do have senior coaching aspirations in the future, but it will all depend on where I am with work/family life as it is a position that requires full dedication and consumes a great deal of your time.
AS: What are the best aspects of being involved with the Waverley Blues Football Club?
LT: Footy trip!! Seeing James ‘Danger’ Bird’s form in Cairns last year is why you play footy, absolutely priceless. Honestly, the best aspect about being involved with Waverley Blues is mateship. Being a family club, we have a culture built on loyalty. After 14 years at the club, I’m still playing with some of my best mates from secondary school and most of the committee are ex-players who I first played with when I came up from U/18’s. This has created a really tight-knit club where everyone are good mates. No matter how professional football gets these days, it’s hard to beat the feeling of having a beer in the change rooms with your teammates after a great win.
And let’s hope this unwavering camaraderie leads to more success for us all to enjoy at the greatest club in the land!