Mark Williams hams it up with Trent Cotchin at Punt Road.

Mark Williams hams it up with Trent Cotchin at Punt Road. Photo: Pat Scala

Having botched its critical senior coaching appointment less than two years ago, Melbourne has no choice but to look for experience and authority in seeking a replacement for Mark Neeld. There is every indication the Demons won’t have to look very far.

Mark Williams is the best candidate for the job. He comes with baggage, but even those detractors who witnessed first-hand his fall-out with Port Adelaide and tempestuous two seasons at Greater Western Sydney admire Williams as one of the best coaches in the AFL.

When asked if experience was now required at Melbourne, new chief executive Peter Jackson told Monday morning’s latest bloodletting press conference that Melbourne required "a very good coach".

That is no surprise. Jackson is a known admirer of Williams and there is no indication that the AFL took the 2004 premiership coach off its books for consideration after 54-year-old’s largely unhappy time with the then under-resourced baby Giants.

The league is well aware of what went wrong and do not believe that Williams alone should shoulder the blame.
Jackson also underlined the club’s search for a strong and senior football operations manager as a priority. That role is unlikely to be filled by the new caretaker Josh Mahoney.

The position requires someone with the authority needed to back Williams, but also to handle his demands, which will come regularly and loudly.

Melbourne has now sacked two previously inexperienced senior coaches within 22 months, but that is not reason alone to seek experience now.

The truth is it would be folly to go for another unproven coach.

Garry Lyon, Cameron Schwab and Don McLardy believed that Neeld would work with the old hand Neil Craig by his side, but for a variety of reasons the two men could not take Melbourne any further and rather than rebuild they dismantled.

Now Schwab and McLardy have gone, largely because of the Neeld disaster, and Lyon has declared the former Collingwood assistant may have been the wrong person to take on the coaching in the first place.

Paul Roos has no interest in coaching again, Kevin Sheedy will not be a candidate, nor should he be, John Worsfold is out of the picture and Rodney Eade is not rated as highly as Williams.

Unless Neil Craig performs football miracles over the coming two months he will not coach again and would probably have to go given that he and Williams would not work together.

Melbourne has blown yet another six-figure sum - $600,000 - on yet another piece of bad business with more pay-outs to come. The AFL industry’s disproportionate amount of money spent on sacking coaches, officials and executives remains a disturbing undercurrent as it now demands so much from its supporters through club memberships, pay television and admission costs.

Williams, the long time Port Adelaide mentor, remains passionate about coaching and seems the ideal candidate to dispense some tough love - with emphasis on the latter - on this shattered playing group. With strong guidance from the right football boss he is the teacher to slowly instill confidence back into the Demons.

If Williams learned any lesson from the Giants experience it was that he perhaps demanded too much from some of the younger players, although many of those still speak highly of him. But the GWS list was dominated by teenagers and Melbourne’s is not.

His family struggled to settle in Sydney whereas they have already happily relocated to Melbourne. Presumably the pitfalls of attempting to micromanage a developing and under-resourced football club with Kevin Sheedy as the front man is one experience he has learned from and will never repeat.

Williams also has a history of strong relationships with his older players, something Neeld failed to achieve, and has one of the best reputations in the competition in promoting indigenous talent, which Neeld in his short unsuccessful stint at Melbourne did not.

Richmond, which lured him from GWS on a two-year contract as a senior development coach, has no regrets in that appointment and has singled out his close and reportedly fruitful relationship with the talented but troubled Dustin Martin as one of many assets Williams has brought to Tigerland.

Williams’ contract with Richmond is directly linked to Damien Hardwick’s - a matter that would become irrelevant should Melbourne offer him the senior job and he chooses to take it.

None of the above means that Melbourne should not apply due diligence to this appointment - something it failed to do last time in not passionately pursuing Ross Lyon the way Fremantle did, nor wooing Mick Malthouse, nor even bothering to invite Ken Hinkley for a second interview.

Williams did not interest the Demons then either.

He should now. He is not the messiah, Melbourne has had enough of those, but he is the man for the job.

And who would have thought he'd be working just around the corner at Punt Road.