Within the walls of a football club it’s easy to identify the players who could become coaches.
In line meetings, match reviews and training drills they show their football nous, tactical knowhow and ability to read the game.
To the footballing public, it’s the usual suspects.
It’s the stars who read the play to the point that they look like they’re able to predict the future, the ones who direct their teammates, and the players who present like coaches when they face the media.
But there are ones who – to the footballing public – fly under the radar and subvert expectations.
Zac Williams is one of those.
Fashionable, tattooed, a fan of rap and hip hop, always smiling and complete with a shock of bleached blonde hair, the 23-year-old doesn’t look like your typical aspiring coach.
But, courtesy of a ruptured Achilles tendon, he’s cutting his teeth as the NEAFL GIANTS’ back line coach – and it’s sparked a new passion for the dashing defender.
“As a kid, I obviously didn’t think about it too much, I just wanted to play football. But now that I’ve been doing it this year, I’ve taken a bit more of an interest in the coaching side of things,” he said.
“I don’t like watching the boys play, I’d rather be out there, but now that I’ve actually been sitting in meetings and having to put my coach’s cap on I can actually see myself doing it after football.
“Hopefully it’s another 10 or 15 years away, but I can certainly see myself doing it.”
The injury in late January has forced Williams to endure months of rehabilitation and he has only recently returned to running.
Williams, who has played 76 games for the GIANTS since debuting in 2013, wanted to be more involved and jumped at the opportunity to try his hand at coaching.
“Obviously I want to stay involved in the football side of things with my injury, so I’ve been coaching the backline when the boys play in Sydney,” he said.
“I try and do as much as I can with the backline boys and just stay involved, and hopefully by the end of the year I come back and play, and I’ve got that football side of things down pat.”
Communication is crucial for coaches of all levels. Many 23-year-olds might find it tough to address older, more senior players.
The Narrandera product isn’t one of those. In fact he feels it’ll help him in the long run.
“It’s a bit weird trying to deliver a message to a few of the older boys, I guess, but I’ve been around for six years now and, given how young some of the boys are at this club, I sort of feel like a senior player,” he said.
“So, when I come back and have to give them a bit of direction, I’ll feel a bit more comfortable as a player because I’ve been doing it as a coach.”
According to fellow defender and seasoned campaigner Tim Mohr, when Williams talks during breaks in the NEAFL his teammates listen. Difference in age or experience is not a factor.
“For someone of his age, his wealth of knowledge is second to none,” Mohr said.
“He’s really easy to get along with and in the twos he’ll let you know if you’re making mistakes and will also encourage you when you’re doing things well.
“He sees things that we can’t see down on the ground so it’s good to have those eyes above.
“He is completely honest with us in telling us what’s going on, like I said he’ll tell us when we’re doing good or bad things.
“We trust him.”
Mohr can also see how the new role could benefit Williams as a player, just like it has for GIANT Sam Reid.
Reid spent two years as part of the NEAFL GIANTS’ coaching staff before being re-drafted in the 2016 Rookie Draft.
“Zac was and always will be a gun,” Mohr said.
“Obviously it worked for Reidy and it could definitely work for Zac as well and take his game to another level … he’d be unstoppable.”
Williams is, for the most part, on the same page.
“Watching the game from a different point of view, I guess you see a different running pattern, what the opposition is doing,” he said.
“When I come back I think, as a backline player, I’ll be able to solve a lot of problems as well.
“It’s been a tough year being out and not playing, but I’m also counting all my blessings with the coaching side of things because I think it’s going to make me a better player.”
GIANTS fans will certainly be looking forward to Williams’ return and who knows – one day they could be cheering on the GIANTS Academy graduate as the club’s head coach.
If that is his path after football he very well might be the first coach with an abundance of tattoos and bleached hair, but won’t be the first GIANTS coach to have roamed the half-back flank.