AFL finals: Coaches inflict labour gains

by admin on July 14th, 2018

filed under 南京夜网

Mick Malthouse as a coach at West Coast: ”You guys have been kidding youselves.” Photo: Darrin BraybrookSo what if you were attending the birth of your first child, Mick Malthouse’s deeply reproving look said to West Coast’s Michael Brennan one day in January, 1990. You’ve missed half of training.
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John Worsfold and Don Pyke, Eagles teammates then, remembered Malthouse’s attitude when he arrived in Perth that summer. Paraphrasing, it was: “You guys have been kidding yourselves.” Pyke especially felt the brunt. “It’s fair to say I wasn’t the most defensive player on the list,” he said. “We had some moments.”

The next year, the Eagles felt they made progress, losing only three home-and-away games and becoming the first non-Victorian club to reach the grand final, losing it to Hawthorn. But Malthouse immediately took them behind locked doors, told them the season had been a waste and turned his wrath on individuals. “I thought Peter Wilson was done,” Worsfold said.

On a post-season trip to the US, Malthouse fell ill with a kidney infection. “When we heard he was in so much pain,” said Worsfold, “we were all cheering.”

It is necessary to note here that Worsfold and Pyke had come to praise Malthouse, not bury him. They were leading the tributes to him at a coach’s association dinner to formalise him as a legend of their craft. This seemingly bloodless man and his uncompromising ways at length tempered them into the team that won premierships in 1992 and 1994. When he eventually returned to Melbourne in 1999, players cried.

Much water and some blood has flowed under the bridge since, and Malthouse, the coaching games record-holder, says he accepts that his coaching days are done, but his wife, Nanette, is not so sure. “I still think he thinks he hasn’t climbed the mountain,” she said. “He’s still not satisfied with what he’s done. Where that takes him, I don’t know.”

No individuals will be more shaped in history’s page by the outcome of Saturday’s grand final than the two coaches. It is an unnatural prospect. It makes coaching a job apart, and coaches a breed apart, with its own bloodlines, intramurally mad.

Malthouse played under two late greats, Allan Jeans and Tom Hafey, essentially two different schools. You played to please one, he said, and not to cross the other. Regularly, Hafey would ring Malthouse on a Friday night and say: “Mick, we can’t win without you.” Years later, said Malthouse, “I worked out he said that to everyone”.

One of Malthouse’s insights was into how he remained so inscrutably calm when coaching Collingwood at the end of 2010 drawn grand final. With the ball out and seconds remaining, he said, only St Kilda could win. All year, he had drilled the Pies in minimising space in stoppages just like this. Now, reflexively, they did it. It was a coaching triumph. The flag could wait.

Across town, at an MCC lunch, the Coodabeens teased out of Adam Simpson the morals of his education under Denis Pagan at North Melbourne. His early lesson was his most salutary. In what he now sees was a ploy to cut a typically cocky newbie down to size, he suddenly found himself in a punch-up with Anthony Rock in the middle of a basketball game. He ended up concussed.

Pagan, as most know, could be withering. At 40 and now a coach himself, Simpson thinks he is over it. “But I wish I could impart some of that onto my players,” he said. Footy, though, has changed. Then, footballers aimed to prove the coach wrong. Now, if he’s any good, players buy into his plan.

In 1996, aged 20, Simpson played a North premiership team. Pagan was ready with a wet blanket. “Everyone look around the room,” he said, “because there’s five of you won’t be here next time.” He was right. Simpson also recalled Brownlow nights, when Pagan’s “death eyes” would bore into him if his opponent got three votes in a particular match.

Simpson served three years under Alastair Clarkson at Hawthorn. There, he crossed paths with Luke Beveridge. Call it Clarko college. Simpson said Clarkson got a two-year jump on the game.

Simpson coached the forwards. “Franklin, Roughead, Rioli, Bruest: it was just ‘kick in there’,” he said. More seriously, he said forwards were artists. Defenders and midfielders have long, earnest meetings. “Forwards go get a cup of coffee and talk about how good we are,” he said. A forward’s job depended on confidence, a coach’s job was to build it.

Simpson missed out on jobs at Melbourne, the Brisbane Lions and Greater Western Sydney before landing West Coast. In his second year they made the grand final, but crashed to Hawthorn. “How do you get ambushed on grand final day?” he asked. “I just think the occasion really got to the players. Bit like two weeks ago (when they were blitzed by the Bulldogs).” Already, he knows this much about Perth, that “the highs are very high, the lows are shithouse. I’ve just got out of the cave”.

Now Beveridge is in Simpson’s shoes of last year. His coaching genealogy is classical, but with a twist. He was given a break by Malthouse at Collingwood, and another by Clarkson, but before that his exploits in the amateurs widened eyes and before that, as a player, “I loved Johnny Northey”.

You can just about see Beveridge gulping in this week. He said the last thing he would do is to try to fix what’s not broken. “I don’t want the players thinking, ‘Bevo is anxious, he’s half-lost it’,” he said.

The years flit by. Brennan’s 1990 newborn is 26 now, and come and gone as a league player himself. But ’91 remains unwon, and Malthouse itches still. “Nanette’s right,” he said. “I’ll never be fulfilled. I know that. [But] I’ll never coach again. I’ll never know what it’s like to climb the mountain.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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