As the Wayne Bennett v Brisbane Broncos coaching soap opera rolls on, Francis Leach takes a look at some of the most infamous spats between coaches and their employers.
Malcolm Blight’s year from hell at the Saints
He was the supercoach who signed a $1 million-a-year contract on the back of a napkin after a boozy dinner on the Gold Coast.
In the year 2000 former Adelaide Crows premiership coach Malcolm Blight was coaxed out of retirement by an ambitious and audacious charm offensive by the then St Kilda hierarchy led by president Rod Butterss and his lieutenant Grant Thomas.
Malcolm Blight’s famous spray for former Saints president Rod Butterss
They sold him the dream and offered him the purse. Blight simply couldn’t say no.
History says he probably should have.
Blight’s tenure at Moorabbin was, well, nuts. His 15 games in charge of the Saints delivered just three wins.
Saints fans had been promised “the ride of your life” in the promotion campaign when Blight was appointed. It turned quickly into a screeching car wreck.
The bitterness surrounding Blight’s sacking has not diminished.
Former players tell tales of his indifference to and absence from training sessions. Blight himself has hit back at a club he infamously said had a culture “500 per cent worse” than anything he had encountered previously.
Worst of all, Blight was immortalised on the day of his axing wearing the worst yellow windcheater in the history of bogan couture.
Some things really can never be forgiven.
Cricket Australia takes the Mickey
When the Australian cricket squad arrived in England in 2013 it was a team on the edge of a nervous breakdown.
The Aussies had just been pummelled 4-0 on a disastrous Test tour of India, which resulted in four players being banned for one Test in the infamous “homeworkgate” scandal.
Coach, South African Mickey Arthur, issued his equivalent of a Saturday school detention to naughty boys Shane Watson, Mitchell Johnson, Usman Khawaja and James Pattinson in the hope that he’d laid down the law for others in the squad.
Obviously, he didn’t realise that David Warner wasn’t one for reading his memos. On arriving in England the Maroubra mauler punched England’s Joe Root in a Birmingham bar on the eve of the series.
Warner was dropped from the team and Arthur’s days were numbered. Just 20 days out from the first Test he was sacked.
Arthur was wounded by his dismissal and promptly sued Cricket Australia for wrongful dismissal. Along the way, he aired some dirty laundry, particularly about then captain Michael Clarke referring to all-rounder Watson as a “cancer” in the team.
Given what we now know about the chronic insularity, insecurity and arrogance of the culture in the Australian cricket team, Arthur may have had a point.
And Australian cricket now has more than just a bit of homework to do.
Eddie has his revenge by making Wallys of the Wallabies
As England inflicted its sixth straight defeat on the woeful Wallabies at Twickenham on Saturday, Eddie Jones was laughing.
The England coach had helped condemn the Australians to their worst run of results in a calendar year since 1958 and its worst run of losses against the men in white in their history.
To think that Jones once took the Wallabies to within a Jonny Wilkinson conversion of the 2003 World Cup and was now their tormentor in chief with the old enemy is almost too much to take for long-suffering Wallabies fans.
Jones was sacked after four years in charge of the Wallabies in December 2005. After the heights of the 2003 World Cup run, his team stalled in 2005 and lost eight of nine Tests.
What now seems like the start of a terminal decline born of significant structural problems that still bedevil the sport in Australia was slated home to Jones.
“The big thing I learned from the Wallabies was I’d never work for people I didn’t trust any more,” Jones said at the time, wounded by what he saw was white-anting from administrators and support staff.
Jones rebuilt his career by coaching the Japanese national team before arriving in England as coach.
As the last Australian coach to have held the Bledisloe Cup (2002) he’s a living link to the Wallabies’ faded glory.
He’s making it his job nowadays to ensure that those who thought life was better without him to remember their choices.
And that message was writ large on last weekend’s scoreboard.
Postecoglou walks away from the Socceroos
When Ange Postecoglou took over the Socceroos job in October 2013, he was answering an SOS from a team that had hit an iceberg and was sinking fast.
Consecutive 6-0 thrashings by Brazil and France had meant the papers were stamped for German coach Holger Osiek, and Ange was asked to perform the rescue mission.
Fast forward 18 months and Postecoglou had navigated Australia through a World Cup finals in Brazil with their reputation intact and had won the Asian Cup on home soil.
That’s when the weather changed for the coach and his bosses at FFA headquarters.
— Robert Grasso (@RobertGrasso) October 31, 2017
The Socceroos World Cup qualification campaign for Russia 2018 teetered on the brink as they were forced into playoffs against Syria and Honduras, “In Ange we Trust” had become “without Ange we must” for some of his critics.
The loss of faith took its toll on the Socceroos boss who became increasingly disillusioned with the Australian game as he fought to qualify his team for a remarkable fourth consecutive World Cup finals.
That Postecoglou managed that feat convinced many (including myself) that he wouldn’t be able to resist the lure of another World Cup campaign in 2018, a tired and deflated Postecoglou announced his resignation in front of a packed press conference.
— Nine News Australia (@9NewsAUS) November 21, 2017
The reasons why for many were never clear. The timing for many was unforgivable. The pain Postecoglou felt was undeniable.
Like so many coaching stories, the greater the achievements, the longer and harder the fall must feel.