Former Melbourne coach Dean Bailey has been remembered as a brilliant football mind whose wit and vision influenced a generation of young players.
Bailey died on Tuesday morning at the age of 47 after a short battle with lung cancer.
Robert Shaw, who was an Essendon assistant coach in 1986 when Bailey began his 53-game playing career with the Bombers, said that despite his physical shortcomings, Bailey was blessed with an incredible football brain.
“He was vertically challenged, close to the ground (but had a) great sense of balance of timing, not quick. He had that instinctive vision to be able to create and see things,” Shaw told SEN on Tuesday.
After hanging up the boots in 1996, Bailey went on to become an assistant coach with his old club and Shaw remembered his friend as an integral part of the coaching panel that led Essendon to the flag in 2000.
“He was a young Essendon boy, that’s where he grew up and he came back and played an amazing role in the 2000 premiership side as one of the very first development coaches,” Shaw said.
“Now, we see they’ve got five or six (development coaches) – Dean did it all by himself. He was a great teacher of our young players.
“He always had the sharpest of football minds. He was such a visionary on the ground.
“He was a very clever man, a very funny man and we’d just have great times together.”
Bailey left Windy Hill in 2002, going on to be an assistant coach at Port Adelaide during their premiership success two years later.
He was rewarded in September 2007 when he was handed the senior coaching job at Melbourne, but his three-year stint there was a nightmare.
The Demons won the wooden spoon in his first two years in charge, before finishing 12th in 2010.
Melbourne won seven and drew one of their first 15 games in 2011, but Bailey’s fate was sealed by a 186-point annihilation at the hands of Geelong in Round 19. He was sacked 24 hours later.
Bailey’s reputation took a hit last year when, as an assistant at Adelaide, he was suspended from coaching for the first 16 rounds of the 2013 season after an AFL investigation into his role in Melbourne’s alleged tanking during 2009.
The investigation found Bailey had “acted in a manner which was prejudicial to the interests of the AFL”.
Melbourne players later revealed Bailey had come under fierce pressure from his superiors to intentionally lose matches in order to gain earlier draft picks.
“It was disgusting what was going on and you felt for Bails because everyone knew he was under the pump to lose,” an unnamed Demons player told the Herald Sun in 2012.
“Players had meetings and asked him what was going on but there was nothing he could do.
“The club had a plan. They wanted the two kids, (Tom) Scully and (Jack) Trengove and you just shook your head.
“You’d work your butt off in the pre-season and hang up all these words in the gym and the change rooms or whatever and what did it all mean? Nothing.
“Players were never told to lose. They were just rested and played out of position.”
Shaw was blunt in his appraisal of how the Demons treated Bailey.
“He obviously got a raw deal at Melbourne,” Shaw said.
Despite the tanking controversy, Bailey commanded the respect of all he worked with.
Port Adelaide premiership player Kane Cornes said Bailey had a massive influence on that success.
“He was such a huge part of our premiership side in 2004,” Cornes said.
“I think we had one of the best coaching panels going around with Mark Williams, Phil Walsh, Dean Bailey, Geoff Morris.
“He was midfield coach for a number of years there, so I worked really closely with him.
“He had that real balance of being able to separate general life from footy. He was great for advice away from footy as well.”
Bailey was most recently employed as a strategy and innovations coach with the Adelaide Crows.
Crows coach Brenton Sanderson remembered him as a “fantastic mentor”.
“He was such a great teacher — an educator who developed players to get the best from them,” he said.
“I have so many wonderful memories of Dean.
“I’ve known him since 2006 — coached against him, coached alongside him. He was a fantastic friend and I will miss him dearly.”
Sanderson said Bailey remained strong throughout his fight against cancer, which was diagnosed last November.
“His courage was incredible. He just kept fighting,” Sanderson said.
“I feel really in peace now that he’s no longer in pain.”
Some of Bailey’s former players took to social media to pay tribute to the coach, who is survived by wife Caron and two sons, Mitchell and Darcy.
Just heard the tragic news about my old mate Dean Bailey,My thoughts go out to his family,He’s one of the best Blokes I’ve met in Football
— Brent Moloney (@Beamnation3) March 10, 2014
— Warren Tredrea (@warrentredrea) March 10, 2014
Such bad news about the passing of Dean Bailey. My thoughts are with his family at this time. RIP
— Shaun Burgoyne (@ShaunBurgoyne9) March 11, 2014
– with AAP