Small steps first for Cameron
He will be Giant: Leon Cameron is excited by being assistant coach to Kevin Sheedy next year and at the prospect of taking over in 2014. Photo: Supplied
JUST five weeks into his new job as senior assistant coach and officially anointed heir apparent to Kevin Sheedy at Greater Western Sydney, Leon Cameron hasn't yet experienced the first of those moments. He knows, full well though, they are going to come soon enough.
Those inevitable times when the man who'll be taking over the Giants at the end of next year - and replacing Sheedy as captain of the AFL's newest, shiniest ship - will be watching proceedings, either at training, or even in a game, and thinking ''I would have done this'', or more problematically ''I wouldn't have done that''.
''I'd be lying if I said I wasn't thinking ahead,'' he says. ''I'd be lying to you and I'd be lying to 'Sheeds'. We talk about it all the time. About when we get into the cut and thrust of games and trying to teach a certain style, and we change that because of that very moment or the game coming up, and how is that going to affect the next year.
''Absolutely, you look at things and say: 'OK, I'm taking over at the end of next August or September or whatever it is', but in saying that, one of the good things is Sheeds knows that as well, the other coaches know it, [football manager] Graeme Allan knows it.
''When we all sit down and have discussions, it's 'why are we doing this right now, why are we doing it for the start of next year, and why are we doing it for when I take over?' That doesn't mean we always agree, but it does mean we all walk out heading in the one direction. And yes, I know where I'm going, but not for one second do I forget that my role now is as senior assistant to Kevin.''
But in 2013, Cameron will be the the AFL's de facto 19th senior coach, having forsaken a job rebuilding Port Adelaide for a club already chock-full of the best young talent in the football world. The finding of players having been done, the role is to nurture then harvest a crop likely to be rich in fruit. He prefers not to call his decision to opt for the Giants ahead of the Power a choice, but an opportunity too good to ignore.
''I get to have another 11-12 months' coaching experience under Kevin Sheedy, and all the experience he's had over 30-odd years in coaching, I get to find my feet in Sydney, and on top of that there's a bunch of exciting young kids,'' he says.
Already, Cameron has been struck by the ''energy'' coming out of the Giants' camp - and not just among the playing list. ''It's a bit surreal, because I've never been involved with a club starting from scratch, but you can just feel that positive energy, from the players, and from all the staff, because they're just so excited to be involved in the AFL.''
What's struck him most so far? ''The competitiveness. Whether it's a handball game at training, to weights, to wrestling, to boxing, even probably to be the first to get from one training venue to the next,'' he laughs. ''Just a group of 18- and 19-year-olds who want to compete and learn - and the camaraderie is just enormous. Even the fact that a kid like Stephen Coniglio, or Jeremy Cameron or Adam Treloar have re-signed for three years - I've only been here a few weeks but I can see something must be going very right at this footy club if seven of our eight Rising Stars from last season have already re-signed.''
Despite nine years as an assistant coach with the Western Bulldogs and Hawthorn, Cameron will be tackling plenty of new duties, most importantly, alongside Sheedy, helping coach the coaches as well as the players. On that score, it's the past couple of years with the Hawks, their coach Alastair Clarkson and the club's ''fantastic system of managing people'' from which he will draw most heavily.
''I had a really good chat with 'Clarko' about this. He said the biggest thing you'll notice is that everyone wants a piece of you,'' he says.
''Everyone wants a piece of Sheeds, and because they know in 12 months' time I'll become senior coach, they'll also want a piece of me as well. And Sheeds is putting me in the spots and giving me the opportunities to actually experience that before it becomes a reality.''
Not that the GWS leaders have much doubt about how Cameron will cope with man management. Club president and head of the Business Council of Australia Tony Shepherd said recently Cameron was among the most impressive interviewees with whom he had ever dealt, his presentation founded on three principles: honesty, empathy and curiosity.
''I think in any industry if you can't be honest with each other there's going to be a lack of trust,'' Cameron says. ''There's 100-odd people involved in this organisation. If you can't be honest, particularly through the hard times, what happens is that cracks start forming in your footy club.''
Empathy, he says, is about ''getting in the world of your players and your staff and realising that this is a really tough, hard and brutal game. The more you actually genuinely care about people, the more it allows you to be honest with them.''
As far as curiosity goes: ''To keep on learning,'' Cameron says. ''You asked before why did I need another year's experience as an assistant. Well, if I'm too stubborn or my ego's too big that I think I can't still learn, then I'm not helping myself. It's just finding out what's around the corner.
''It's about what was over at Hawthorn, which was an outstanding experience, about learning from 'Rocket' [Rodney Eade] at the Bulldogs, and learning about different parts of the game - and now my curiosity has got me to GWS.''