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


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 78 vs RIC 105 Report Stats
Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
MEL 115 vs GCF 89 Stats
SYD 72 vs ESS 60 Stats
BRI 74 vs COL 86 Stats
WBU 97 vs WCE 87 Stats
Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEST
STK 78 vs GWS 87 Stats
ADE 140 vs NTH 63 Stats
FRE 75 vs PTA 68 Stats
Mon, 06 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW 123 vs GEE 61 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
WCE 131 vs CAR 62 Stats
Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
RIC 66 vs WBU 85 Report Stats
GWS 101 vs MEL 56 Stats
COL 63 vs ADE 90 Report Stats
GCF 76 vs STK 104 Stats
PTA 44 vs SYD 92 Stats
Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
GEE 60 vs FRE 104 Stats
ESS 78 vs HAW 76 Stats
NTH 133 vs BRI 51 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
COL 140 vs STK 66 Stats
Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
CAR 84 vs ESS 105 Stats
ADE 80 vs MEL 55 Stats
SYD 111 vs GWS 90 Report Stats
NTH 105 vs PTA 113 Stats
BRI 58 vs RIC 137 Stats
Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW 127 vs WBU 57 Stats
GEE 105 vs GCF 96 Stats
WCE 81 vs FRE 111 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
RIC 51 vs MEL 83 Stats
Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
STK 81 vs CAR 121 Report Report Stats
ESS 49 vs COL 69 Report Stats
GWS 119 vs GCF 53 Stats
PTA 99 vs HAW 91 Stats
FRE 74 vs SYD 60 Stats
Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
BRI 65 vs WCE 118 Stats
GEE 67 vs NTH 83 Stats
WBU 125 vs ADE 68 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR 45 vs COL 120 Stats
Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
RIC 76 vs GEE 85 Stats
SYD 73 vs WBU 77 Stats
GCF 118 vs BRI 54 Stats
NTH 70 vs HAW 130 Stats
WCE 120 vs GWS 33 Stats
Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
MEL 50 vs FRE 118 Stats
STK 80 vs ESS 82 Stats
ADE 91 vs PTA 115 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
COL 59 vs GEE 100 Stats
Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
NTH 109 vs RIC 74 Stats
WBU 87 vs STK 94 Stats
GWS 108 vs HAW 98 Stats
GCF 78 vs ADE 119 Stats
MEL 50 vs SYD 88 Stats
FRE 80 vs ESS 52 Stats
Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR 75 vs BRI 84 Report Stats
PTA 68 vs WCE 78 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS 82 vs NTH 93 Stats
Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
ADE 119 vs STK 73 Stats
HAW 155 vs MEL 50 Stats
CAR 57 vs GWS 135 Stats
SYD 120 vs GEE 77 Stats
WCE 135 vs GCF 43 Stats
Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
WBU 88 vs FRE 101 Stats
RIC 105 vs COL 100 Report Stats
BRI 102 vs PTA 65 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
GEE 140 vs CAR 63 Report Stats
Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
STK 78 vs WCE 131 Report Stats
GWS 108 vs ADE 84 Report Stats
GCF 63 vs COL 132 Report Stats
HAW 69 vs SYD 73 Report Stats
FRE 115 vs NTH 42 Report Stats
Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS 136 vs BRI 78 Report Stats
MEL 103 vs WBU 64 Report Stats
PTA 43 vs RIC 76 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
SYD vs CAR 19:50SCG
Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
HAW vs GCF 13:45AS
MEL vs PTA 14:10TIO Traeger Park
WBU vs GWS 16:35ES
RIC vs ESS 19:20MCG
ADE vs FRE 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
BRI vs STK 13:10G
COL vs NTH 15:20MCG
WCE vs GEE 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
FRE vs RIC 20:10Domain Stadium
Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR vs ADE 13:40MCG
GCF vs SYD 16:35MS
ESS vs GEE 19:20ES
PTA vs WBU 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
GWS vs BRI 13:10Spotless Stadium
NTH vs WCE 15:20BA
STK vs HAW 16:40ES
Mon, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
MEL vs COL 15:20MCG
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
PTA vs GEE 19:50Adelaide Oval
Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
GCF vs FRE 13:40MS
WCE vs ESS 16:35Domain Stadium
NTH vs SYD 19:20ES
Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
COL vs GWS 13:10MCG
STK vs MEL 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Thu, 18 JunTimes shown AEST
ADE vs HAW 19:50Adelaide Oval
Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
RIC vs WCE 19:50MCG
Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR vs PTA 13:40MCG
GWS vs NTH 16:35Spotless Stadium
WBU vs BRI 19:20ES
Sun, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
GEE vs MEL 15:20SS
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Thu, 25 JunTimes shown AEST
FRE vs COL 20:10Domain Stadium
Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
SYD vs RIC 19:50SCG
Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
HAW vs ESS 13:40MCG
BRI vs ADE 16:35G
STK vs WBU 19:20ES
Sun, 28 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR vs GCF 15:20ES
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Thu, 02 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD vs PTA 19:20SCG
Fri, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
COL vs HAW 19:50MCG
Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC vs GWS 13:40MCG
GCF vs NTH 16:35MS
WBU vs CAR 19:20ES
MEL vs WCE 19:40TIO
Sun, 05 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS vs STK 13:10ES
ADE vs GEE 15:20Adelaide Oval
FRE vs BRI 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Thu, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
PTA vs COL 19:50Adelaide Oval
Fri, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC vs CAR 19:50MCG
Sat, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS vs MEL 13:40MCG
WBU vs GCF 16:35CAZ
NTH vs GEE 19:20ES
WCE vs ADE 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 12 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS vs STK 13:10Spotless Stadium
HAW vs FRE 15:20AS
BRI vs SYD 16:40G
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Fri, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
NTH vs ESS 19:50ES
Sat, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
GEE vs WBU 13:45SS
GCF vs GWS 14:10MS
COL vs WCE 16:35ES
SYD vs HAW 19:20ANZ
FRE vs CAR 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 19 JulTimes shown AEST
MEL vs BRI 13:10MCG
PTA vs ADE 15:20Adelaide Oval
STK vs RIC 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Fri, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
CAR vs HAW 19:50ES
Sat, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS vs GEE 13:45SO
ADE vs GCF 14:10Adelaide Oval
RIC vs FRE 16:35MCG
ESS vs PTA 19:20ES
BRI vs NTH 19:20G
Sun, 26 JulTimes shown AEST
WBU vs COL 13:10ES
MEL vs STK 15:20MCG
WCE vs SYD 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Fri, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
HAW vs RIC 19:50MCG
Sat, 01 AugTimes shown AEST
GEE vs BRI 13:45SS
COL vs MEL 14:10MCG
SYD vs ADE 16:35SCG
CAR vs NTH 19:20ES
GCF vs WCE 19:20MS
Sun, 02 AugTimes shown AEST
PTA vs STK 13:10Adelaide Oval
ESS vs WBU 15:20ES
FRE vs GWS 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Fri, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
ADE vs RIC 19:50Adelaide Oval
Sat, 08 AugTimes shown AEST
COL vs CAR 13:45MCG
WBU vs PTA 14:10ES
BRI vs GCF 16:35G
GEE vs SYD 19:20SS
WCE vs HAW 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 09 AugTimes shown AEST
MEL vs NTH 13:10MCG
GWS vs ESS 15:20Spotless Stadium
STK vs FRE 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Fri, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
SYD vs COL 19:50SCG
Sat, 15 AugTimes shown AEST
ESS vs ADE 13:45ES
NTH vs STK 14:10BA
PTA vs GWS 16:35Adelaide Oval
GEE vs HAW 19:20MCG
BRI vs CAR 19:20G
Sun, 16 AugTimes shown AEST
RIC vs GCF 13:10MCG
WBU vs MEL 15:20ES
FRE vs WCE 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Fri, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
HAW vs PTA 19:50ES
Sat, 22 AugTimes shown AEST
COL vs RIC 13:45MCG
GWS vs SYD 14:10Spotless Stadium
GCF vs ESS 16:35MS
STK vs GEE 19:20ES
ADE vs BRI 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 23 AugTimes shown AEST
NTH vs FRE 13:10ES
CAR vs MEL 15:20MCG
WCE vs WBU 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 22
Fri, 28 AugTimes shown AEST
GEE vs COL 19:50MCG
Sat, 29 AugTimes shown AEST
GWS vs CAR 13:45Spotless Stadium
HAW vs BRI 14:10AS
NTH vs WBU 16:35ES
ESS vs RIC 19:20MCG
GCF vs PTA 19:20MS
Sun, 30 AugTimes shown AEST
ADE vs WCE 13:10Adelaide Oval
STK vs SYD 15:20ES
FRE vs MEL 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 23
Fri, 04 SepTimes shown AEST
COL vs ESS 00:00MCG
RIC vs NTH 00:00ES
HAW vs CAR 00:00MCG
GEE vs ADE 00:00SS
SYD vs GCF 00:00SCG
MEL vs GWS 00:00ES
BRI vs WBU 00:00G
PTA vs FRE 00:30Adelaide Oval
WCE vs STK 02:00Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
AFL 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D % Pts
Fremantle 8 8 0 0 155.29 32
West Coast Eagles 8 6 2 0 158.17 24
Sydney Swans 8 6 2 0 127.36 24
GWS Giants 8 6 2 0 118.87 24
Collingwood 8 5 3 0 129.90 20
Adelaide Crows 8 5 3 0 116.32 20
Hawthorn 8 4 4 0 145.81 16
Richmond 8 4 4 0 107.64 16
View all
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