Ray masters art of coaching

Tristan WheelerManjimup-Bridgetown Times
Ray Masters has won three LSWFL premierships in the last decade.
Camera IconRay Masters has won three LSWFL premierships in the last decade. Credit: Manjimup-Bridgetown Times

Manjimup’s Ray Masters is one of the most accomplished players and coaches in the Lower South West Football League, having won three premierships from five grand finals in the past decade, as well as winning three premierships with Imperials as a player.

His personal accomplishments are almost as impressive as his team accomplishments, twice winning league fairest and best, as well as finishing runner-up twice and leading the league in goal-kicking four times.

Ray started playing Aussie Rules Football in 1978 and finally retired from the game in 1998, playing 196 games for Imperials football club, winning three premierships and captaining the club to a premiership in 1993.

“There’s no doubt, winning grand finals is what we all play for,” he said.

“I played in three flags which is not bad in an average club down here.”

Outside of the region Ray had stints in colts and reserves levels for WAFL sides and played for Kenwick, as well as Harvey-Brunswick.

His first coaching stint was at the reins of Imperials football club, being appointed as a player-coach at the tender age of 24 years old and coaching them in five seasons, twice as player/coach between 1987 and 1988 and 1994 and 1995, and once as coach for one season in 2001.

After taking a three-year hiatus from coaching, he moved to the other side of town taking over Tigers from 2004 to 2007, reaching a grand final in 2006.

“We had a kick for goal that probably would have won the grand final and then to get beaten soundly in the replay was a real sort of hollow feeling,” he said.

“At that stage I hadn’t won a premiership as a coach and was a real millstone around my back, that didn’t go away until 2010 when I was able to win one.”

His most successful stint with Tigers was from 2010 to 2014, winning two premierships in 2010 and 2013 and reaching the final in 2011 and 2014.

Ray said that 2013 premiership was among his favourite career highlights.

“We came from six or seven goals down in the first quarter, playing against Southerners, who were always hard to beat in finals and have been somewhat of my nemesis as a club, to get up and win that was really special.”

His last stint with Tigers was in 2016 and he said that it might have been his last as a coach if he wasn’t offered the job at Bridgetown.

“We’d had discussions in previous years, even going back into the 90s, we’d spoken but it never worked out, either I was coaching or they had somebody else,” he said. “I’d sort of done Manjimup to death I suppose, I’d lived a lot of my life at Imps and coached Tigers for 10 years which is sort of unheard of down here. I was just about content with leaving it at that and I got the urge again and the opportunity was there and I thought, ‘Why not have a go’?”

He saw Bridgetown’s emerging young players as potential premiership winners and took the club over, leading them to a premiership in his first year as coach.

“It was the best thing I’ve ever done, they are just brilliant over there,” he said.

“Lots of good young talent that are keen to learn.”

Ray said that the past 10 years of his coaching career had been his most productive years.

“Sometimes it takes a lifetime to be an overnight success,” he said.

Despite his long association with the game, Ray says his love of football has kept him going.

“When I see the passion of a group of people who want to learn and play for their club, that’s what drives me,” he said.

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