By Ben Pollard
Chris Mangoni’s advice to every SMJFL footballer is to work as hard as possible off the field.
Why? Well, his Sandringham Dragons teammates and coaches didn’t vote the former Dingley junior in as their captain by chance.
According to Mangoni, the reason was as much about his off-field performance as any on-field deeds.
“I think it was just a bit of trust; they knew what they were going to get from me,” he says.
“I try and put in 100 per cent every training session and on match day, so I think that’s the biggest thing – knowing what you’re going to get from your captain and your leaders.
“You don’t have to be the loudest bloke out on the field, as long as you give 100 per cent.”
Mangoni starred for the Dingoes in the SMJFL, winning multiple division best-and-fairests and captaining teams from his Under 11 year through to Under 16s.
But everything changed after Mangoni made the elite Sandringham TAC Cup squad as a 17-year-old last season: He realised his leadership style needed to adapt.
“I didn’t really know many people coming into the Sandringham squad, so it’s about earning a bit of respect, first of all,” he says.
Mangoni earned that respect during the Dragons’ 2011 premiership year.
After spending the majority of his junior career playing as a midfielder, Mangoni was shuffled through various positions last season, including stints in defence that went, as he says, “without much success”.
But this year, he’s enjoying a full-time back pocket and half-back role, and produced some great form early in the season, being named in Sandringham’s best players for the first six games.
Mangoni says a strong off-field work ethic helped turn around his on-field fortunes.
“Just enjoying the training was a big one for me… Getting the most out of yourself there,” he says.
“Even if you don’t play as well as you can in the games, the training will really set you up with all the qualities you need to take into game day.”
After winning six of the first seven games under Mangoni’s leadership, Sandringham has fallen to a 9-7 record, but can still make the top four of the TAC Cup finals with a win over the Oakleigh Chargers in this weekend’s last home-and-away game.
Mangoni says finals time is the perfect occasion for teammates such as Tom Temay, Tom Tyquin and James Stewart to show their wares as potential AFL draft choices.
While recently missing Vic Metro selection means he isn’t as confident about his own draft chances, you can rest assured Chris Mangoni will be working as hard as possible to make his AFL dream happen.