Coach speculation: On Mark Williams


John Kingsmill



One of the curious aspects of the Port Adelaide/Mark Williams engagement is that the more victories Power stacks up this year, the harder it will be for Port to afford to retain him. If, for example, the Alberton waters split asunder and Power wins the 2009 premiership, suddenly Williams will become a million dollar coach. With Port’s current inadequate business model, and a marketing department that may need generational change for it to be able to fill the stadium on a regular basis, this is not a million dollar club and won’t be for a long time.

Conversely, if Power fails to win a game for the rest of the season the value on Williams’ head drops markedly, especially to any one of up to four AFL clubs who may be looking for a new helmsman next year. He might become a half million dollar man and, on that basis, Port might be interested in retaining him, especially if the figure of $750,000 currently being bandied around is a true reflection of his wage.

Williams has told the Adelaide press that he is prepared to take a pay cut to stay at Port Adelaide and that he is sick of the whole question. Further, he says that he has addressed this matter so often in Adelaide, he wonders why people still ask it.

The answer is simple.

Mark Williams has also taunted the Melbourne press often enough with his desire to return to Melbourne, that Adelaide people are entitled to wonder which part of the media he is trying to fool.

Mark sometimes enjoys these little games. After a strange performance on national TV last year, he told an Adelaide conference: “I was joking. Could you not see that I was joking?”

Only a few have access to his codebook.

Can the destabilised nature of the coaching position be the explanation for Port’s current yo-yo performance? As far as the players go, the Port situation is murkier than Collingswood’s. There, if the Pies continue to have a  season, Mick Malthouse will be shown the backdoor and Nathan Buckley will be driven to the front in a limousine.

For many that’s a choice between cod liver oil and spinach for breakfast, but the question remains whether or not a group of players will sabotage a game or a season in order to get rid of a coach. We know it happens in schoolboy and country footy; in the AFL, it’s a delicate question. Players will often win for a new coach. Will they also lose to get rid of an old one?

In Port’s case, however, is it possible that the players are throwing in these semi-regular shockers in order to keep their coach?

In the end, the reappointment of Mark Williams in 2010 and beyond may have little to do with the number of games won or lost this year.

Mark is a proven AFL premiership coach.

By the end of this minor round, he will have coached 259 games for Port and for one flag, tenth on the all-time list for longevity at any one club in the entire history of the VFL/AFL.

That, in itself, is already a mighty achievement. Leigh Matthews, for example, coached Brisbane for 237 games and three flags before he and the club thought they had no more unfinished business.

Port cannot afford to give Mark a one-year extension; that will merely extend the disruptive influence of a destabilized or lame-dog coachdom. Some may argue that a two-year term may be no better.

Port’s real question is whether management enters into a second decade relationship with Williams in the Sheedy/Essendon fashion or whether it’s time this club had a new wash of paint.

There’s a third way.

After ten years at the helm, Mark Williams may need a sabbatical and so too may the players, support staff, and some of the fans.

Give the man a holiday so that he can travel the world and refresh.

Appoint an existing AFL coach as a caretaker for a year, so that the ship doesn’t sink.

Paul Roos would be ideal and it might help him ease out of footy. Alternatively, Denis Pagan would do it. And so would Terry Wallace; but don’t go there.

It would be fascinating, though, to see what Malcolm Blight could do with Port for one year and one year only; Blight’s impact on crowd attendances could help the Port business plan, too.

Thus, Mark Williams could return in 2011, with a new spring in his step and the Revolution Could Continue.

Oops! Sorry. That was last year… what’s that damn thing again

Yes. Mark could Live the Creed once again although fifteen years might be enough.

Generation Z will be coming through then. Shudder.




In the meantime, two breakaways have taken a flyer in the 2009 AFL Tour – les Saints and les Purrs; the peloton is long and hard, with Hawthorn and the Western Bulldogs as chaseurs; Essendon is in full tuck position but les Dons need to be careful – they should slip back into the echelon with Port, Sydney and Brisbane and save some gas. Meanwhile, after starting like a bolt out of the bleu, Carlton has bonked and threatens to join the wheel-sucking squirrels Collingwood, Adelaide and North. As for Freo, West Coast, Richmond and Melbourne, tout la merde!

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