What maketh a good footy coach?
Many things, in truth, but if there is a simple answer it is this: his players play for him.
In the week that football celebrates the life of the great Tom Hafey it is worth pondering how many of his players actually loved him, and revered him. Hafey was hard on his players, famously so, but he formed a bond with them and they followed him into battle unequivocally.
Mick Malthouse is in a state of constant conflict with the media but his players love him, will do anything for him, the same as Fremantle’s players will do for Ross Lyon and Hawthorn’s men respond to Al Clarkson. Coaches who come in with a heavy hand before they have made that connection with their players are doomed to fail, as Scott Watters did at St Kilda and Mark Neeld did at Melbourne.
All of which brings us around to Paul Roos, 2005 premiership coach at Sydney, now in charge of Melbourne. In just a few short months at the club Roos has already forged that magical feeling of mutual respect with his players, and the results are self-evident.
Roos is a genius. His feat in taking a very good but not great Swans team to a flag over West Coast’s high octane midfield was a coaching masterstroke.
The Demons have won more games than they did in the whole of 2013 and, more to the point, they compete ferociously week after week, contest after contest.
Roos is a genius. We knew from what he had done at Sydney that he was good – his feat in taking a very good but not great Swans team to a flag over West Coast’s high octane midfield was a coaching masterstroke – but in 2014, he is pitching up a gentle reminder of the reason Melbourne went after him with big money.
So the Demons ruined a day where the script was written for a celebration of Hafey, one of the greatest Tigers. Richmond kicked 9.20 to self-inflict its poison, is 2-6 on the season and 16th on the ladder when it was tipped as a certain finalist.
Melbourne is coming. It has Jack Watts influencing games, it has Jeremy Howe fulfilling potential as a sweeping half-back and it has unfettered youth in Jack Viney and Dom Tyson, among others. And it has the indefatigable Nathan Jones, who is a much better player than people were willing to acknowledge. Most of it, it has a proper footy coach. And hope.
Suns shine again
Gold Coast is a seriously good football team, fifth on the ladder and headed for finals for the first time. The Suns were expected to beat St Kilda at the Docklands but an eight-goal first quarter revealed a manic spread from the contest that rivals Port Adelaide’s.
Gary Ablett’s virtuoso performance (37 disposals, 22 contested balls, four goals) was helpful to the Suns’ cause, to put it mildly. Ruckman Zac Smith, who returned from a knee reconstruction after 12 months on the sidelines, was a bonus.
Guy McKenna’s team play an extremely attractive brand. Every line oozes talent from the likes of Harley Bennell and Jaeger O’Meara and David Swallow and Brandon Matera.
Some of the big boys are up and running after the weekend, with Fremantle tipping over Geelong to celebrate captain Matthew Pavlich’s 300th game, and Sydney smashing Essendon to hold firm in the top four.
Lance Franklin (five goals) was brilliant in the Swans’ victory, and his contested marking is better than it has been for some years.
Some of the same people were saying a few weeks ago that Franklin was unravelling the entire football club.
Unless I imagined it, some of the same people who were saying a few weeks ago that Franklin was unravelling the entire football club and the famous Bloods culture have switched to a view that he could win the Swans a flag.
That’s footy for you, where opinions last five minutes flat.
More bump drama
The bump is again a topic of conversation after Dan Hannebery’s hit on Michael Hurley of Essendon at Etihad Stadium, with the match review panel – or possibly the tribunal – due to deliver a verdict early in the week.
For what it is worth, I am in the camp that argues Hannebery chose the only option that he had; he went for the football as it bobbled out in front of Hurley, and braced for the inevitable collision. That Hurley went in head-first, exposing himself to injury, is scarcely Hannebery’s fault.
It was a collision, rather than a deliberate bump. I hate players deliberately bumping opponents with their head over the football, but in this case, I feel Hannebery should be reprieved.