AFL

Which AFL coach is under the most pressure?

Adam Simpson got his new contract, so too did Brad Scott. So now it is down to four. Four AFL coaches are one month into the last 12 months of their contracts to coach their clubs.

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Alastair Clarkson, Damien Hardwick, Nathan Buckley and Justin Leppitsch are all out of contract at the end of next season.

Someone normally gets sacked in the AFL - that is just what happens to coaches - so being in the last year of a contract theoretically leave you hanging as the most vulnerable to go. Although the length of time left on a contract can be a flimsy guide (ask Brendan McCartney), having more than a year to run is normally safer.

The bulk of current AFL coaches have either been recently appointed or relatively recently re-appointed so it is more difficult to envisage their positions being seriously scrutinised in the next 12 months, which brings us back to the four coaches with just a year to run.

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Of course Clarkson will be re-signed. He is the league's exceptional coach and so is the exception among this gang of four. Unless something goes horribly awry he will have a new contract signed if not before Christmas then before round one next year.

Conversations began on a new contract post-grand final but then stalled when chief executive Stuart Fox took a break and Clarkson went overseas with the international rules team.

Clarkson's contract talks are not about if he will be re-signed but when. And the only hold-up to that is working out for how long, for how much and to do what? That is, how many more years does he get? How much does he get and how much does he get asked to do outside of coaching yet another premiership?

Clarkson is understood to have been the highest paid coach in the AFL for the last few years partly courtesy of healthy bonuses that came with the three-peat of flags. The cap on footy department spending has not come at an ideal time for the league's most successful coach.

Paul Roos might have exceeded Clarkson's salary had Roos triggered bonuses but they were extras that he was doubtful to have been able to trigger at Melbourne – like playing finals.

Damien Hardwick's contract extension seemed assured during the year as the Tigers consolidated as a consistent team and regular finals player. The slight wrinkle to that plan emerged when the Tigers again disappointed in September.

Regardless, it would take a wholesale change in attitude from a club preaching the virtue of stability and unity for Hardwick not to be re-signed - Peggy O'Neill has even hinted as much. If the impediment to re-signing is the query on the ability to win finals then that question will not be answered until September 2016 and it is unlikely they would leave him hanging that long.

So that leaves Buckley and Leppitsch.

If this does not sound contradictory, Leppitsch is more vulnerable, but Buckley is under more pressure. Partly that is because one coaches a big team full of expectation and scrutiny … and the other is Justin Leppitsch.

Buckley is likely to be re-signed soon, which will alleviate the immediate pressure on him but only mildly.

The success of Collingwood's trade period in securing Adam Treloar in particular, and James Aish and Jeremy Howe, has heightened expectations on the Magpies and the coach. They are still a young team but in real terms while they might be younger next year they also look a more talented team. Only injuries would offer a pardon for not improving next year.

After two years of rollicking to eight wins and three losses at the turn Collingwood folded in the second half of each year. The long range forecast would suggest next year's draw allows a similar prospect with harder games in the second half of the year. But as Buckley said recently, being 8-3 and worrying about holding it together in the second half of the year with a fit list is a problem any coach would be happy to have.

Thus Buckley's contract extension at the start of the year will offer comfort but it will not mean much as far as easing the pressure of the restless natives if by season's end the Magpies are holidaying in September again.

Which brings us to Leppitsch.

The issues for Leppitsch are two fold – on-field and off. On the field he carries the burden of having finished 15th and 17th. The team fell away this year for myriad reasons, but in part there was the lingering consequence of the hole that was left from the exodus of elite players the summer before Leppitsch took over.

Leppitsch's arrival as coach has done little to fix the problem of keeping players. Aish left this year but insisted that was nothing to do with the coach. Jack Redden, on the other hand, also walked out and with a season to run on his contract and it was clear that had a lot to do with the coach.

That can happen at a club where a coach and player do not see eye to eye and the player has to go, but it cannot become a theme. Not when the coach has won 11 of 44 games.

COACHING STATE OF PLAY

Adelaide: Don Pyke – first year of three-year contract. 

Brisbane Lions: Justin Leppitsch – out of contract at the end of 2016 and coming off a second-last finish. 

Carlton: Brendon Bolton – first year of a rolling contract with minimum three years. 

Collingwood: Nathan Buckley – out of contract at end of 2016 but expected to negotiate an extension before season starts. 

Essendon: John Worsfold – has just started a three-year deal. 

Fremantle: Ross Lyon – contract extended until the end of 2017. 

Geelong: Chris Scott – contract extended until the end of 2017. 

Gold Coast: Rodney Eade – one year into his three-year contract. 

GWS: Leon Cameron – just finished third season as coach; contract extended until end of 2016.

Hawthorn: Alastair Clarkson – contracted for 2016 and in negotiations on a new deal. 

Melbourne: Paul Roos – entering last season next year before the handover to assistant Simon Goodwin. 

North Melbourne: Brad Scott – contract extended until the end of 2018. 

Port Adelaide: Ken Hinkley – contracted until the end of 2018. 

Richmond: Damien Hardwick – contracted until the end of 2016; expect him to be re-signed sooner rather than later. 

St Kilda: Alan Richardson – contract extended until the end of 2018. 

Sydney: John Longmire – contracted until the end of 2017.   

West Coast: Adam Simpson – re-signed to the end of 2019.

Western Bulldogs: Luke Beveridge – one year into a three-year deal and contracted until the end of 2017.

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