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Sack full of memories

Premiership coach: Tony Jewell this week with the Jock McHale Medal that will be presented to the winning coach on grand final day.

Premiership coach: Tony Jewell this week with the Jock McHale Medal that will be presented to the winning coach on grand final day. Photo: Pat Scala

THIS is a story about coaching - what it takes to be the best, how it feels to get sacked or to wield the axe yourself, why a man would ignore the scars and put his head on the block again, and again. In seeking a member of the fraternity to present the Jock McHale Medal to the sole successful coach of 2012, the AFL chose well.

Every time he goes against his better judgment and agrees to do a footy club ''speaky'', his introduction reminds Tony Jewell who he is: Richmond's last premiership coach. He insists he fell into the job in the first place with no great ambition, and went back for strikes two and three for the wrong reasons.

He knows the euphoria, the ache of loss, the bitterness of being cast out, the addiction that draws you back. As a director, he has sacked coaches as many times as he was knifed himself. This is simply the game. Above all, Jewell knows how primitive football once was, and how it was a coach who changed the landscape from black-and-white to glorious colour.

His first, as an 11-year-old playing Caulfield under-15s, was Carlton's legendary goalkicker ''Soapy'' Vallence. He saw him kick five in his last game, ''aged about 53, with shorts down to his knees and a pyjama cord holding them up''. Training consisted of watching Vallence slot goals from all angles. ''I was fascinated.''

At 15, he was playing seniors under Bill ''Polly'' Perkins, a Richmond premiership player of the Jack Dyer era. Wide-eyed, he waited for the coach to dispense words of football wisdom. ''[But] there was no instruction, it was all about guts and determination.''

At 16, he crossed to Oakleigh and played under Alby Pannam, Collingwood great, uncle of Lou Richards, and a coach who inspired his players by punching raw meat hung around the change rooms, splattering the walls with blood. ''I didn't learn much about football off Alby, either.''

One day, in a moment of self-preservation, Jewell pulled out of a contest. Pannam went through him. ''How could you let the jumper down?'' he roared. Jewell looked down, saw ''this horrible purple jumper with holes in it …''

Picked up by Richmond, a light came on in his football world. On his Dandenong office desk sits a dog-eared folder containing 37 faded, typewritten pages. On the front in small block capitals is written ''LEN SMITH'S COACHING NOTES''. ''This is the Holy Grail of coaching,'' says Jewell.

While Smith's more celebrated brother Norm was winning premierships at Melbourne, Len was coaching paupers Fitzroy and, when Jewell arrived at Punt Road in 1964, Richmond. He wrote down his gospel of the game while convalescing after a heart attack; someone typed up the notes, and Jewell treasures them as the original game-changer.

''Tommy [Hafey], Allan Jeans, [John] Kennedy, it flowed through Leigh Matthews, down to the Scott brothers today - all his views, the simple science of the game, it all came from Len,'' he says, noting that Mick Malthouse teams play Smith's ''kite fashion'' of attack - from defence to boundary wing, then heading for goal.

Jewell recalls Smith taking his Tigers to the MCG to watch a Melbourne game, each armed with a notebook, and telling them to mark down how many marking contests there were in a quarter. Next quarter, how many of those featured actual marks being taken. And then, ''where did the ball fall?'' and ''what happened when it fell?''

''He was the first who could tell you the story of a game through stats,'' Jewell says. Those numbers arrived at a bottom line: if every player's first thought on taking possession was to handball, and his mates knew this and ran to offer support, the opposition would be ground to a standstill.

Smith died young, Hafey stepped in and added fitness, aggression and tackling to the blueprint, and in 1967 Richmond fielded one of the greatest premiership teams of all time. It is no coincidence that seven of that 20 - Francis Bourke, John Northey, Barry Richardson, Royce Hart, Mike Patterson, Kevin Bartlett and Jewell - went on to coach.

And, of course, to be sacked coaches.

Jewell left the Tigers at 26, recently married and needing the money, to coach a bunch of misfit mates at Caulfield. He returned in charge of Richmond reserves, and saw the Smith doctrine at work, where the seniors, seconds and under 19s all sang from the same hymn sheet. ''You could pluck a bloke from any grade and they fitted in.''

Out of a reserves flag came the senior job, then the 1980 flag, and a year later his first sacking.

''It took the wind out of my sails, I lost my appetite for it,'' Jewell says, recalling being summoned to a dawn meeting and sniffing the breeze. ''There's only one reason a club calls a 6am meeting.''

Sensing that St Kilda was about to pull the trigger on him in 1984, he phoned a journalist and told him he was quitting at season's end. Lindsay Fox was waiting for him at training, ''to tell me I wasn't staying that long after all''. A second stint at Richmond coincided with the club in near-terminal decline.

Why go back for more? ''Mainly because you're asked. It's the bloody ego really,'' he says. ''And it is a drug.''

As a board member and director of football, the boot was on the other foot. Robert Walls' dismissal was tough (''I was a big Wallsy fan''); Jeff Gieschen and Danny Frawley followed.

Brett Ratten's demise brought it all back. ''It's such a public hanging, it's shocking.''

Son Nick, a one-game Tiger and 10-year Victorian cricketer, knows the lure of the caper too, his summers filled with coaching Premier club Frankston Peninsula, while he has just finished a stint as playing-coach of Heatherton in the Southern footy league.

''He bounces things off me, and he's serious about it - he's not a lunatic like I was,'' Jewell says.

He loves the game as much as ever, can't abide ''when we were kings'' talk, and feels fortunate to have such fond football memories. Coaching, he says, is the biggest improvement in the game. ''But the good sides are still simple sides. You can still see Len Smith.''

AFL 2015

Round 1
Thu, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
CAR 78 vs RIC 105 19:20MCG
Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
MEL 115 vs GCF 89 13:40MCG
SYD 72 vs ESS 60 16:35ANZ
BRI 74 vs COL 86 19:20G
WBU 97 vs WCE 87 19:20ES
Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEST
STK 78 vs GWS 87 13:10ES
ADE 140 vs NTH 63 15:20Adelaide Oval
FRE 75 vs PTA 68 18:40Domain Stadium
Mon, 06 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW 123 vs GEE 61 15:20MCG
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Round 2
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
WCE 131 vs CAR 62 20:10Domain Stadium
Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
RIC 66 vs WBU 85 13:45MCG
GWS 101 vs MEL 56 14:10SO
COL 63 vs ADE 90 16:35ES
GCF 76 vs STK 104 19:20MS
PTA 44 vs SYD 92 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
GEE 60 vs FRE 104 13:10SS
ESS 78 vs HAW 76 15:20MCG
NTH 133 vs BRI 51 16:40ES
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Round 3
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
COL 140 vs STK 66 19:50MCG
Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
CAR 84 vs ESS 105 13:45MCG
ADE 80 vs MEL 55 14:10Adelaide Oval
SYD 111 vs GWS 90 16:35SCG
NTH 105 vs PTA 113 19:20ES
BRI 58 vs RIC 137 19:20G
Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW 78 vs WBU 40 13:10AS
GEE vs GCF 15:20SS
WCE vs FRE 16:40Domain Stadium
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Round 4
Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
RIC vs MEL 19:50MCG
Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
STK vs CAR 11:10NZ
ESS vs COL 14:40MCG
GWS vs GCF 17:40SO
PTA vs HAW 19:40Adelaide Oval
FRE vs SYD 20:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
BRI vs WCE 13:10G
GEE vs NTH 15:20SS
WBU vs ADE 16:40ES
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Round 5
Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR vs COL 19:50MCG
Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
RIC vs GEE 13:45MCG
SYD vs WBU 14:10SCG
GCF vs BRI 16:35MS
NTH vs HAW 19:20ES
WCE vs GWS 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
MEL vs FRE 13:10MCG
STK vs ESS 15:20ES
ADE vs PTA 16:40Adelaide Oval
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Round 6
Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
COL vs GEE 19:50MCG
Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
NTH vs RIC 13:45BA
WBU vs STK 14:10ES
GWS vs HAW 16:35Spotless Stadium
GCF vs ADE 17:10MS
MEL vs SYD 19:20MCG
FRE vs ESS 20:10Domain Stadium
Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR vs BRI 15:20ES
PTA vs WCE 16:40Adelaide Oval
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Round 7
Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS vs NTH 19:50ES
Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
ADE vs STK 13:45Adelaide Oval
HAW vs MEL 14:10MCG
CAR vs GWS 16:35ES
SYD vs GEE 19:20ANZ
WCE vs GCF 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
WBU vs FRE 13:10ES
RIC vs COL 15:20MCG
BRI vs PTA 16:40G
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Round 8
Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
GEE vs CAR 19:50ES
Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
STK vs WCE 13:45ES
GWS vs ADE 14:10Spotless Stadium
GCF vs COL 16:35MS
HAW vs SYD 19:20MCG
FRE vs NTH 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS vs BRI 13:10ES
MEL vs WBU 15:20MCG
PTA vs RIC 16:40Adelaide Oval
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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AFL 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D % Pts
Adelaide Crows 3 3 0 0 171.27 12
Sydney Swans 3 3 0 0 141.75 12
Fremantle 2 2 0 0 139.84 8
Richmond 3 2 1 0 139.37 8
Collingwood 3 2 1 0 125.65 8
Western Bulldogs 2 2 0 0 118.95 8
GWS Giants 3 2 1 0 113.47 8
Essendon 3 2 1 0 104.74 8
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