Sport AFL Nathan Burke: The coach who gets ’buy in’ is the one to get

Nathan Burke: The coach who gets ’buy in’ is the one to get

Interim St Kilda coach Brett Ratten (L) with assistant coaches this week. Photo: Getty
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The search has begun for a new St Kilda coach.

Quite incredibly for Saints fans it has been six years since we last heard those words and Alan Richardson got the nod.

To make sure we don’t hear them again for a long time, it is imperative we find ‘the right coach’.

Now as we well know in the fickle and competitive world of AFL football, this is far easier said than done. So where does the club start?

Everyone has an opinion on what sort of coach the club requires in order to lead them to a premiership for just the second time in its checkered history.

Let’s look at some of the options that are floating around the chat rooms – the style of coach that the Saints should go for.

Some think they need a hard-arse. A coach who will instil some discipline in a bunch of underachievers.

This idea emanates from a perception that Richo was too nice of a guy and failed to embed elite standards. In other words, some fans think he simply wasn’t hard enough on his men.

Others believe that given the youthful nature of the list the Saints could do with a great development coach. A leader who can extract and nurture the players’ talent. Someone who will help them fulfil their undoubted potential.

In high demand, but short supply is the experienced coach who comes armed with premierships under his belt.

A leader who can grab a self-satisfied club by the scruff of the neck, teach the players what it takes to be successful and drive the underachievement out of the place.

Finally there is the master tactician that will revolutionise the game and have St Kilda’s competitors searching for ways to keep pace.

Personally I don’t like any of the aforementioned coaching types and if I was on the selection committee none of these qualities would be on my shortlist.

The club doesn’t need a disciplinarian. It doesn’t work with the modern footballer who would prefer to play for a coach, rather than in spite of a coach.

The Saints don’t need a development coach because that is the job of the actual development coaches. Of which there are countless numbers these days.

And just because you may have won a flag as a player doesn’t mean that you know how you won that premiership.

If the Saints had won in 1997, I guarantee you there were players who would have had no clue as to what it was that took us from bottom dwellers to world beaters. Many just went along for the ride.

Lastly, if the coach is the smartest tactician in the box then the club is in trouble. Any head coach needs a strong team around him. What are the other 10 in the coaches’ box doing if everything gets left to the top dog?

The Saints need a coach who is going to unite this group around a common cause.

The coach must create a culture and level of buy in that has every player and staff member believing they can be great – individually and collectively.

A great coach will make them all be willing to sacrifice individual glory for the greater good.

St Kilda needs a leader of men who will develop leaders below.

A team builder whose authenticity and passion will create a powerful synergy throughout all areas of the club.

Surround this person with assistants and empower them to develop players and devise tactics.

If you need to visualise what it looks like, you only need to think of the Western Bulldogs in 2016 or Richmond in 2017.

Neither club had the most talented team in the league, but were united in their belief they could be great – and they did.

If you need a more recent example, think of what the 2019 Brisbane Lions have already achieved this season.

I don’t know how this coach will be. Is it Brett Ratten, Brad Scott, Robert Harvey or even Peta Searle?

Whoever it is I hope they are up for the challenge and if the Saints selection panel picks the right person, they will be.

Nathan Burke is a former St Kilda captain who played 323 AFL games for the Saints, winning three Trevor Barker Awards as best-and-fairest player.