Captaining AFL Clubs

In October this year, Footy news at the Western Bulldogs shocked me. Four players requested the club to be traded to somewhere else and one of them was then captain Ryan Griffen who wanted to play for GWS Giants. Then the coach Brendan McCartney resigned the top Dog job.

The Kennel dramas were shocking not only Doggie fans but also the footy world and many AFL fans.

Previous AFL captain who had requested his club to be traded somewhere else was Chris Judd. He was a premiership captain at West Coast and requested the club to be traded to a Victorian club due to homesickness*. Judd left the Eagles in 2007 to join the Blues.

After Luke Beveridge had been appointed as the senior coach of the Bulldogs, the club started searching a new captain. Last Friday, 32-year-old veteran defender Robert Murphy was appointed as the new skipper at the Kennel.

I think the Doggies made the right choice because not only Murphy is a good player but also writes good weekly columns for the Age newspaper during the AFL season. His writing reflects on his positive attitudes on playing and loyalty to the club, and he expresses the great art of footy in his articles. I am always impressed with his positive columns and admire his skills in writing.

Many Bulldog fans expressed opinions that Griffen had no loyalty to the club and they wanted a loyal footballer to be a new captain.

It is the first time for Murphy to lead Bulldogs. He had longed to be a captain for years but missed. I think it is great for him, but meanwhile they also need to train young players to gain leadership skills.

Then let’s see St Kilda whose captain is in the same age as Murphy.

Nick Riewoldt has been a captain at St Kilda for nine seasons. He is a great skilled and loyal one-club player. Also Riewoldt has wonderful leadership skills. He is respected and admired by many footy fans. Indeed I praise him for what he has been doing for the club.

Recently young St Kilda players have joined the four-day training camp in Canberra. Details of their program had been just released before started the camp. Lack of food and sleep was the part of program to gain skills to handle with tough situations to be competitive in tough games. St Kilda new recruit Tim Membrey says that he got to know each other with other young Saints at the camp.

It was a great opportunity to train young players and gain leadership skills amongst them. I wish it would not happen, but Riewoldt won’t play for the Saints forever. The Saints need to gain loyalty and strong culture and train young players to gain leadership skills for the future. One of them will be a future skipper. Indeed he has to be loyal to St Kilda Footy Club, and Riewoldt will help young stars to be potential candidates for a future captain.

AFL captains are required many skills and positive attitudes, even if their clubs face tough circumstances including playing great footy and leadership skills. And great communication skills are important too (not only with coaches but also with players). It is a hard job but must be fulfilling job.

I have no idea about situations at West Coast in the middle of 2000s, but if Judd had felt homesick to Melbourne and/or not liked the club culture, he could have had a co-captain because he was a good player. However it was the past including what had happened with the Bulldogs last year.

Riewoldt is a brilliant skipper. And I hope the next St Kilda captain has great skills and attitudes like does Nick. Then the club’s situations will improve and winning the second flag will become reality. Go the Saints!


* However I have heard another point of view that Judd wanted to leave West Coast due to drug culture created by Ben Cousins.

About Yoshihiro Imagawa

Love, passion and pride are seen on the footy that is the biggest part of my life. 1. St Kilda Club member: I am a passionate and crazy Sainter. Just hope we will win the second flag soon, especially after Dogs and Tigers having ended long premiership draughts. 2. The Osaka Dingoes Player and Public Relations Officer: Player number 44 that I chose to honour Stephen Milne with my wish being like a small forward like him. Lenny Hayes' hardworking attitudes are adopted on my trainings and practices. Nick Riewoldt's great plays are in my player audiobook too. 3. Writing: Here on the Almanac and also on the World Footy News. My skills utilise on great footy websites.


  1. Neil Anderson says

    Another thought-provoking article from you Yoshi. Firstly I agree that Bob Murphy was the best choice as captain of the Western Bulldogs. Over the years and through his writing in The Age, he often mentioned how privileged he felt to be part of the Red, White and Blue. When he was appointed captain he was humbled but couldn’t wait to lead the talented young players emerging at the Kennel.
    Privileged, humble,,loyal and talented. That’s why we love him as a player and a person.
    He has been a fill-in captain a few times but has never really sought the full-time job. He reminds me of the deputy-principal role in schools. While the principal is busy dealing with ‘Head Office’ and meetings with parents, he is left to both discipline and guide the students at the coal-face.
    The three senior players that left had none of these qualities. Griffen was a shy country boy from South Australia who didn’t want to be captain anyway. Bob Murphy did a story on the eve of Griffen’s 200th about when Griff turned up for the first training session and was talking to him later when they were in the showers Bob the veteran even then was surprized when Griff said,” ‘Who are you again?”
    Typical self-deprecating humor from Bob, but an indication of that the new boy was not going to be fully immersed in AFL footy. He just wanted to get out there and play and show his talents on the field.
    Cooney seemed to turn into the class-clown and would never use the word ‘privileged ‘
    about being the number- one draft pick for the Bulldogs in 2003. Higgins had a few outstanding games was injured a lot, and in the finish he looked bored and disinterested. Certainly not captain material.
    I thought those three players should have moved on anyway and make way for players who really want to be there.
    I was going to write just a couple of lines only Yoshi, but you’ve got me going with your topic close to my heart, so I appreciate the chance to respond.

  2. G’day Neil,

    It’s great to hear your thoughts on Bob and your beloved Bulldogs. Footy Almanac is the community where people can be honest sharing their thoughts from hearts, I understand. So I am happy to read all your thoughts with long sentences.

    Now I remember Bob’s column talking about Griffen and it’s good to see your perceptions on the story that I didn’t have. I understand that Bob is from the bush but he is different to the former captain who was not loyal to the Kennel.

    Thanks for your great comment!


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