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Respected and feared: the AFL's best coaches and future greats

Date

Two-time AFL premiership captain

View more articles from Wayne Carey

Mick Malthouse, Alastair Clarkson, Paul Roos, John Longmire, Ken Hinkley and Nathan Buckley.

Mick Malthouse, Alastair Clarkson, Paul Roos, John Longmire, Ken Hinkley and Nathan Buckley.

For all the debate we hear each year around players, potential draft picks and trades, is there a footballer in the AFL who is more important than the senior coach?

Getting the right person for the top job is the key to success on and off the field, and the very best coaches seem to have two distinct qualities – they’re both respected and feared.

History tells us the best coaches had plenty of both, while possessing an innate ability to get their teams over the line when it mattered most.

The game is littered with examples, but Malcolm Blight is among the most recent.

There was no way the Crows were the best team in the competition in 1997 and 1998, yet Blight managed to take them to back-to-back flags. Adelaide’s playing group and coach were simply in sync and it enabled Blight to get the best out of the Crows at the right time of the year.

Getting sides to gel and perform isn’t just about barking instructions at training and outsmarting your opponent on game day.

Coaches are akin to psychologists. They have to get inside every player's head, know what makes him tick, then pull all that together over a season that effectively stretches for 10 months.

It’s a monumental job and while the coaching landscape may have changed over the past decade, the inherent qualities that define the best remain. From the outside looking in, these are the best and the brightest coaches.

The best

Mick Malthouse

More than 700 games almost says it all, and few will deny he is both feared and respected. Mick’s great ability to understand his playing group – both its strengths and weaknesses – has yielded extraordinary consistency. When he took over West Coast he understood that he had an elite group of defenders, so he built his side around them. Sure, he had some stars elsewhere, but that side was built on defence and it led them to 10 consecutive finals series that netted two flags.

Likewise at Collingwood, he quickly summed up his playing group and formed a game plan that resulted in almost immediate success. The Magpies weren’t the second best team in the competition in 2002 and 2003, yet Malthouse led them to two grand finals where they nearly pinched a flag from one of the best sides the game has seen, Brisbane. 

Malthouse understands what players he has and adjusts accordingly. Carlton’s performances may seem erratic, but I believe it’s more to do with personnel and injuries. Malthouse is definitely the right man to coach the Blues for the next five years if that’s what he wants to do. There’s no one better equipped to do it.

Alastair Clarkson

I played with Alastair and he was a tough, hard-working footballer who could do a job anywhere on the ground. He always gave 100 per cent, and that’s what he’s taken into his coaching – a willingness to work hard for results. He demands effort. From that comes respect and, in turn, fear. He has also been one of the pioneers of coaching in the past 10 years, in terms of his strategies. That includes his game style and recruitment. He was appointed the Hawks’ senior coach after a lengthy apprenticeship and in his first year he nabbed Jarryd Roughead and Lance Franklin. He then went for good ball-users before developing a game plan that resulted in premierships in 2008 and 2013. That structure continues to stand up in the midst of injury and illness this season.

Ross Lyon

Similar to Clarko in that he was a tough, hard player who also served a solid apprenticeship (under Paul Roos at Sydney). What he did with St Kilda was quite remarkable. He inherited some really good footballers, but it was his ability to lift that entire playing group that made them an exceptional team. There was no such thing as a soft contest against the Saints. They simply gave their all week in, week out, and they were incredibly unlucky to miss winning two grand finals. I love the way Lyon goes about it. He’s fair and honest. There’s a standard that’s set and if you don’t perform to that standard, you hear it straight. Nick Dal Santo might testify to that. He was apparently shown a video of himself going for the ball 10 times in front of his teammates and warned that if he repeated the sub-standard effort he’d never play for the Saints again. Dal got dropped that week, but was never dropped again. Again, respect and fear. 

Paul Roos

If we are to believe what we hear, Paul Roos "stole" the job at Sydney from Terry Wallace and may have faced some discontent early on. But how right were the Swans with their decision? Roos is arguably the smoothest and coolest coach the game has ever seen. You rarely see him flustered. He always seems in control. Sydney already had a pretty good culture, but Roos took it to another level. The entire club bought into his way and what he was trying to achieve – that if they played as a team, success would come. That’s exactly how the Swans won in 2005 and avoided sliding when most thought they would. His influence is evident right now at Melbourne. The Demons have become competitive again. They’re no longer pushovers. Once again, in a different way, the Demons players absolutely respect and fear Roos. They wouldn’t dare not do their best for him.

Future greats

John Longmire

Has already got a premiership with Sydney and if it wins it again he could almost slide into the game’s best coaches. I, for one, thought Sydney would slide after Roos left. With a number of players at the back end of their careers, there were genuine doubts it could sustain its levels of success. Yet Longmire hasn’t just been able to maintain the club’s fantastic culture, he’s been able to foster and develop a generation-next. The Swans and their coach are admired and respected by the entire competition and there’s every chance they could be premiers once again in 2014.

Ken Hinkley

Has proven in a very short time at Port Adelaide that he has the respect of the entire playing group. Hinkley demands an uncompromising level of professionalism, hard work and dedication. That comes from a guy who has done a massive apprenticeship and listened and learnt along the way. It shows you can’t write anyone off just because they have never previously been given a go at a top job. In stark contrast, it can really work in their favour because of the experience they’ve had. Hinkley is also feared.

Nathan Buckley

Bucks put his stamp on Collingwood straight away. He wanted to make it his team and culled the list, much to the surprise of a few people. He also demanded certain standards be met, again putting a few noses out of joint. I honestly believed he was making the same mistake he made as a captain – that it was his way or the highway – but he really deserves praise. Bucks has transformed this young side (with a defence of rookies) into a genuinely competitive outfit. Whatever the Magpies do from here on in, Bucks has to be commended for what he has achieved in such a small amount of time. Again, his hardness translates into fear.

Chris Scott

Like Johnny Longmire, the Cats coach has already won a premiership. Mark Thompson had left the club and everyone thought the Cats would slide, that they were no chance to win another flag. While their success that year says a lot about the resilience of the playing group, Chris set his own agenda and provided fresh enthusiasm. He was able to harness their talent and get them to go again. They remain one of the best teams going around.

Brad Scott

Like his brother, Brad Scott is also an uncompromising character and, despite his recent run-in with Tom Rockliff, I like the way he goes about his business. He has certainly shown a willingness to try new things. While the Kangaroos have been an attacking, free-flowing side in recent seasons, this year they have almost been the opposite. His challenge now is to find the balance and bring more consistency.

Coaching is a torrid affair and only the tough survive. The men I’ve listed are all strong, determined characters who have a rare ability to connect with people. They are qualities great coaches must possess.

AFL 2015

Round 1
Thu, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
CAR 78vs RIC 105 Report Stats
Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
MEL 115vs GCF 89 Stats
SYD 72vs ESS 60 Stats
BRI 74vs COL 86 Stats
WBU 97vs WCE 87 Stats
Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEST
STK 78vs GWS 87 Stats
ADE 140vs NTH 63 Stats
FRE 75vs PTA 68 Stats
Mon, 06 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW 123vs GEE 61 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
WCE 131vs CAR 62 Stats
Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
RIC 66vs WBU 85 Report Stats
GWS 101vs MEL 56 Stats
COL 63vs ADE 90 Report Stats
GCF 76vs STK 104 Stats
PTA 44vs SYD 92 Stats
Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
GEE 60vs FRE 104 Stats
ESS 78vs HAW 76 Stats
NTH 133vs BRI 51 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
COL 140vs STK 66 Stats
Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
CAR 84vs ESS 105 Stats
ADE 80vs MEL 55 Stats
SYD 111vs GWS 90 Report Stats
NTH 105vs PTA 113 Stats
BRI 58vs RIC 137 Stats
Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW 127vs WBU 57 Stats
GEE 105vs GCF 96 Stats
WCE 81vs FRE 111 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
RIC 51vs MEL 83 Stats
Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
STK 81vs CAR 121 Report Report Stats
ESS 49vs COL 69 Report Stats
GWS 119vs GCF 53 Stats
PTA 99vs HAW 91 Stats
FRE 74vs SYD 60 Stats
Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
BRI 65vs WCE 118 Stats
GEE 67vs NTH 83 Stats
WBU 125vs ADE 68 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR 45vs COL 120 Stats
Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
RIC 76vs GEE 85 Stats
SYD 73vs WBU 77 Stats
GCF 118vs BRI 54 Stats
NTH 70vs HAW 130 Stats
WCE 120vs GWS 33 Stats
Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
MEL 50vs FRE 118 Stats
STK 80vs ESS 82 Stats
ADE 91vs PTA 115 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
COL 59vs GEE 100 Stats
Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
NTH 109vs RIC 74 Stats
WBU 87vs STK 94 Stats
GWS 108vs HAW 98 Stats
GCF 78vs ADE 119 Stats
MEL 50vs SYD 88 Stats
FRE 80vs ESS 52 Stats
Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR 75vs BRI 84 Report Stats
PTA 68vs WCE 78 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS 82vs NTH 93 Stats
Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
ADE 119vs STK 73 Stats
HAW 155vs MEL 50 Stats
CAR 57vs GWS 135 Stats
SYD 120vs GEE 77 Stats
WCE 135vs GCF 43 Stats
Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
WBU 88vs FRE 101 Stats
RIC 105vs COL 100 Report Stats
BRI 102vs PTA 65 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
GEE 140vs CAR 63 Report Stats
Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
STK 78vs WCE 131 Report Stats
GWS 108vs ADE 84 Report Stats
GCF 63vs COL 132 Report Stats
HAW 69vs SYD 73 Report Stats
FRE 115vs NTH 42 Report Stats
Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS 136vs BRI 78 Report Stats
MEL 103vs WBU 64 Report Stats
PTA 43vs RIC 76 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
SYD 122vs CAR 62 Report Stats
Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
HAW 93vs GCF 40 Report Stats
MEL 54vs PTA 115 Report Stats
WBU 113vs GWS 68 Report Stats
RIC 72vs ESS 59 Report Stats
ADE 57vs FRE 68 Report Stats
Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
BRI 86vs STK 108 Report Stats
COL 112vs NTH 95 Report Stats
WCE 120vs GEE 64 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
FRE 70vs RIC 97 Report Stats
Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR 90vs ADE 99 Report Stats
GCF 41vs SYD 93 Report Stats
ESS 53vs GEE 122 Report Stats
PTA 100vs WBU 62 Report Stats
Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
GWS 97vs BRI 67 Report Stats
NTH 85vs WCE 75 Report Stats
STK 69vs HAW 132 Report Stats
Mon, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
MEL 85vs COL 110 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
PTA 69vs GEE 92 Report Stats
Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
GCF 46vs FRE 53 Report Stats
WCE 96vs ESS 46 Report Stats
NTH 75vs SYD 91 Report Report Stats
Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
COL 119vs GWS 77 Report Stats
STK 85vs MEL 83 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Thu, 18 JunTimes shown AEST
ADE 85vs HAW 114 Report Stats
Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
RIC 70vs WCE 90 Report Stats
Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR 110vs PTA 106 Report Stats
GWS 61vs NTH 117 Report Stats
WBU 146vs BRI 74 Report Stats
Sun, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
GEE 89vs MEL 113 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Thu, 25 JunTimes shown AEST
FRE 80vs COL 73 Report Stats
Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
SYD 77vs RIC 95 Report Stats
Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
HAW 114vs ESS 76 Report Stats
BRI 69vs ADE 82 Report Stats
STK 56vs WBU 62 Report Stats
Sun, 28 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR 103vs GCF 69 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Thu, 02 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD 94vs PTA 84 Report Stats
Fri, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
COL 91vs HAW 101 Report Stats
Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC 78vs GWS 69 Report Stats
GCF 125vs NTH 70 Report Stats
WBU 64vs CAR 53 Report Stats
MEL 60vs WCE 114 Report Stats
Sun, 05 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS 52vs STK 162 Stats
ADE vs GEE 15:20Adelaide Oval
FRE 84vs BRI 48 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Thu, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
PTA 66vs COL 63 Report Stats
Fri, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC 71vs CAR 41 Report Stats
Sat, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS 69vs MEL 60 Report Stats
WBU 95vs GCF 73 Report Stats
NTH 120vs GEE 79 Report Stats
WCE 147vs ADE 91 Report Stats
Sun, 12 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS 84vs STK 49 Report Stats
HAW 115vs FRE 43 Report Stats
BRI 49vs SYD 70 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Fri, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
NTH 93vs ESS 68 Report Stats
Sat, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
GEE 72vs WBU 64 Report Stats
GCF 79vs GWS 94 Report Stats
COL 56vs WCE 87 Report Stats
SYD 57vs HAW 146 Report Stats
FRE 95vs CAR 53 Report Stats
Sun, 19 JulTimes shown AEST
MEL 60vs BRI 36 Report Stats
PTA 113vs ADE 116 Report Stats
STK 73vs RIC 89 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Fri, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
CAR 35vs HAW 173 Report Stats
Sat, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS 42vs GEE 69 Stats
ADE 125vs GCF 80 Stats
RIC 78vs FRE 82 Stats
ESS 116vs PTA 129 Stats
BRI 38vs NTH 110 Report Stats
Sun, 26 JulTimes shown AEST
WBU 104vs COL 86 Report Stats
MEL 46vs STK 83 Report Stats
WCE 103vs SYD 51 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Fri, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
HAW 53vs RIC 71 Report Stats
Sat, 01 AugTimes shown AEST
GEE 113vs BRI 57 Stats
COL 54vs MEL 91 Report Stats
SYD 117vs ADE 65 Report Stats
CAR 54vs NTH 118 Report Stats
GCF 83vs WCE 83 Report Stats
Sun, 02 AugTimes shown AEST
PTA 112vs STK 49 Report Stats
ESS 40vs WBU 127 Report Stats
FRE 84vs GWS 63 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Fri, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
ADE 88vs RIC 52 Report Stats
Sat, 08 AugTimes shown AEST
COL 105vs CAR 87 Report Stats
WBU 128vs PTA 64 Report Stats
BRI 100vs GCF 114 Report Stats
GEE 95vs SYD 63 Report Stats
WCE 74vs HAW 88 Report Stats
Sun, 09 AugTimes shown AEST
MEL 92vs NTH 127 Report Stats
GWS 93vs ESS 61 Report Stats
STK 59vs FRE 96 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Fri, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
SYD 87vs COL 76 Report Stats
Sat, 15 AugTimes shown AEST
ESS 59vs ADE 171 Report Stats
NTH 120vs STK 83 Report Stats
PTA 111vs GWS 90 Report Stats
GEE 85vs HAW 121 Report Stats
BRI 131vs CAR 67 Report Stats
Sun, 16 AugTimes shown AEST
RIC 138vs GCF 55 Report Stats
WBU 153vs MEL 55 Report Stats
FRE 80vs WCE 104 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Fri, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
HAW 86vs PTA 108 Report Stats
Sat, 22 AugTimes shown AEST
COL 56vs RIC 147 Report Stats
GWS 44vs SYD 133 Report Stats
GCF 97vs ESS 95 Report Stats
STK 97vs GEE 97 Report Stats
ADE 131vs BRI 44 Report Stats
Sun, 23 AugTimes shown AEST
NTH 94vs FRE 83 Report Stats
CAR 78vs MEL 55 Report Stats
WCE 162vs WBU 85 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 22
Fri, 28 AugTimes shown AEST
GEE 62vs COL 110 Report Stats
Sat, 29 AugTimes shown AEST
GWS ($1.22)vs CAR ($4.50) 13:45Spotless Stadium
HAW ($1.01)vs BRI ($17.00) 14:10AS
NTH ($1.67)vs WBU ($2.25) 16:35ES
ESS ($6.75)vs RIC ($1.12) 19:20MCG
GCF ($3.30)vs PTA ($1.35) 19:20MS
Sun, 30 AugTimes shown AEST
ADE ($2.05)vs WCE ($1.80) 13:10Adelaide Oval
STK ($4.50)vs SYD ($1.22) 15:20ES
FRE ($1.08)vs MEL ($8.50) 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 23
Fri, 04 SepTimes shown AEST
RIC vs NTH 19:50ES
Sat, 05 SepTimes shown AEST
GEE ($2.00)vs ADE ($1.75) 13:05SS
BRI ($3.50)vs WBU ($1.28) 13:45G
PTA ($1.75)vs FRE ($2.00) 15:50Adelaide Oval
HAW ($1.01)vs CAR ($15.00) 16:40MCG
SYD ($1.02)vs GCF ($12.00) 19:20SCG
WCE ($1.11)vs STK ($6.25) 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 06 SepTimes shown AEST
MEL vs GWS 13:10ES
COL vs ESS 15:20MCG
View All Fixtures
AFL 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D % Pts
Fremantle 20 16 4 0 122.19 64
West Coast Eagles 20 15 4 1 150.85 62
Hawthorn 20 14 6 0 154.20 56
Sydney Swans 20 14 6 0 118.16 56
Richmond 20 13 7 0 120.22 52
Western Bulldogs 20 13 7 0 116.09 52
North Melbourne 20 13 7 0 110.91 52
Adelaide Crows 19 12 7 0 116.41 50
View all
 

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