SUNDAY is hardly a day of rest for Collie Eagles Football Club head trainer Tatjana Bozic.
During last Sunday’s match against Donnybrook, for instance, Tatjana was on her feet all day, applying first aid to Eagles’ injuries during the three grades against Donnybrook.
Injuries included one dislocated shoulder and three rolled ankles.
Every week brings a series of challenges and not just on game day.
Tatjana spends two nights a week at training, making sure players are well prepared.
“I do the strapping, massaging, the medic side, first aid and all the little jobs that go with it,” she explained.
Tatjana has been involved with the club since 2004 and has been involved with massage therapy for 18 years.
She grew up in Cobram, a country town on the Murray River, in Victoria. She was drawn to massage when a friend gave her a few pointers.
“I slowly watched. He showed me a few things,” Tatjana said.
She has not copied his exact style, preferring to develop her own techniques.
Tatjana moved to Collie 16 years ago because she wanted a change of lifestyle for herself and her two children.
“I wanted them to go to one school because I was travelling quite a bit,” she said.
Tatjana had moved up and down the east coast, though she had “always wanted to see WA.”
A close friend had grown up in Collie and she had told her all about the south-west.
“I thought I’d come over and have a look and I haven’t left,” she laughed.
Although it took longer to get anywhere, Tatjana said Collie was a wonderful place surrounded by bushland and with plenty of waterholes.
“I felt at home in Collie. I didn’t want to live in the city with the kids.”
Tatjana continued improving her massage skills for her friends and family.
“After a few years the clientele was huge, I couldn’t do it at home. There were not enough hours in the day and I couldn’t afford a business.
“That’s why I joined the footy club,” Tatjana said.
She wanted to be involved with sport and the Collie Eagles was the first club she approached.
“I love football,” Tatjana said. This was hardly a surprise, she added, considering she had grown up in Victoria.
She talked to the then league coach, Kevan Sparks, and asked if she could volunteer her services for a year so she could develop the sports side of massage and first aid.
Sparks agreed and she began by assisting head trainer Tony DeAngelis.
Three years ago Tatjana became head trainer. Alongside her other duties, she brought a “uteload” of water bottles, medical equipment, jerseys, water bottles and a stretcher which she brings to games.
“I also bring the footballs (for players to practise before the game) or they crack it. I’ve got to make sure I have them.”
After the games, Tatjana helps pack equipment and to tidy the locker rooms.
“The things we have to pick up — shoes, spare clothes — I’m going to start holding them for ransom!” she joked.
Tatjana said she was only one of many who worked hard for the club. There were the volunteers behind the bar, office bearers and those who cooked in the kitchen.
“It’s all the little people in the background who make the club.”
She has taken the head trainer’s duties in her stride, but is still prepared for surprises.
“With football you never know what’s going on day by day, game by game,” Tatjana said. It is more challenging than working at home as a masseuse.
“When I first started I used to panic when I saw blood.”
Tatjana became used to bleeding injuries, broken shoulders, hammies, and broken Achilles tendons.
“Concussion scares me the most,” Tatjana said.
If players receive a severe knock to the head, she tests theme with basic questions. If a player fails, he has to come off.
When a player suffers concussion, he is not supposed to play in the following week’s game. Sometimes, they sneak on, Tatjana added grimly. “I have to be the big baddie and tell them ‘sorry, you can’t play’.”
At times, her opinion conflicts with the coaches leading up to and during an important game.
“I don’t care if I have to yell and scream on the sidelines. If a player is injured, if he’s not meant to be on the field, he won’t be on the field.” Tatjana said.
Her decisions were sometimes unpopular with some members of the club, she admitted. “If you’ve got confidence in what you’re doing, it doesn’t matter.”
Sometimes players might arrive at her house to disagree with her decision. “You close the door and keep doing what you’re doing.”
Tatjana tried doing a massage therapy course at Bunbury TAFE so she could combine her experience with theory.
She said it proved impossible to complete alongside two jobs and two children. “It was all medical terms, having to know the muscle and skeletal system by name.”
Tatjana dropped out with no regrets. “I have had people say they’ve been to chiropractors and physios, who can’t find damage and wonder how I find it,” she said.
She never had to spend too much time searching for tears, over-extended tendons and corks.
“I don’t know how I find the spots but I run my fingers through and find them straight away,” Tatjana said.
Sometimes players would use her services during the week to avoid training and to get a free massage.
However, Tatjana does not miss a trick. “I’d think, ‘why do they need strapping?
“I don’t muck around. I get straight to the point,” Tatjana said firmly.
She has been head trainer for the South-West Football League (SWFL) colts team at the last three Landmark carnivals.
She has a soft spot for the colts who called her “Mum” during the Landmark games.
“They’re our up and coming players, they’re going to play league. They’re only 16, 17, which you have to admire.”
Tatjana spends most of her nights awake during the carnival. This year she stayed up until 3.30am the night before the grand final trying to fix a rolled ankle.
“The young fella didn’t think he was going to play in the grand final.”
She applied ice to the ankle all night. “He was running around the car park the next morning.”
This alone was her reward, Tatjana said.
She enjoyed watching the boys grow and develop on and off the field.
“They’ll have families, leave, and come back. It’s a beautiful thing to watch.”