Coaches – Unlocking/Suppressing Potential

I’m struck by the improved performance of both Freo and Port since the changeover of coaches, but it begs a few questions.

For example, what was it (if anything) about the coaching of Mark Harvey and Matthew Primus that stopped these two clubs from reaching their potential?

Who identified that they had the right cattle, but just needed to be herded in the right direction?

Was it a perceptive Board, or was it pointed out to them from outside the club (or possibly an insider/assistant coach/senior players)?

And, even having identified that there may have been a problem (possibly the easy bit), how did they identify the right solution? Both outsiders, but one with a track record of sorts, the other, an untried but well credentialed candidate.

Is there a “sweet spot” where the club’s (not just the team’s) needs closely align with the qualities that a coach brings to the table?

How would a Ross Lyon coached Demons go?

Would anyone notice if the Scott brothers swapped clubs?

Is St Kilda’s current position an endorsement of Ross Lyon or a warning to Freo if they don’t seize their opportunities?

About Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt

Saw my first SANFL game in 1967 - Dogs v Peckers. Have only ever seen the Dogs win 1 final in the flesh (1972 1st Semi) Mediocre forward pocket for the AUFC Blacks (1982-89) Life member - Ormond Netball Club -That's me on the right


  1. Stephen Cooke says

    Mark, I was just wondering today how Melbourne would have gone with Lyon at the helm. He would have been happy to go there, and said he would have preferred staying in Melbourne. I remember Garry Lyon at the time saying they hadn’t approached Lyon because he was contracted to St.Kilda. Probably should have made a call.

  2. Malcolm Ashwood says

    It’s a interesting Question Swish I see it that most coaches have a time span in that you have to get the key guys on board and then the others will follow and if you achieve this as Lyon and Hinkley have done success is possible Full credit to Lyon getting a whole group to believe and then fanatically implement a defensive Game Plan is a huge achievment basically once you lose a key player in not believing in the game plan and ideals it has a domino effect and others follow after all most footballers have a sheep mentality that is why and Coach in general has a limited time span

  3. Peter Schumacher says

    Hope that Brisbane can get such a coach given that Vossy said that he could not have got Brisbane ot the next level.

  4. Stephen Cooke says

    Leppitsch for you, Peter.

  5. Skip of Skipton says

    Port Adelaide as a club had seemed to slowly spiral into the doldrums after the 2007 grand final loss. The full CEO, president and coaching overhaul they got breathed new life and confidence into the playing group. Some ‘raison d’etre’. Matthew Primus was on a hiding to nothing during his tenure and shouldn’t be judged on it. He was just holding the fort pretty much.

  6. Interesting point Mark. I suspect Mark Harvey would have got Freo into finals, and maybe even top 4, because they have the cattle. Harvey’s last season was cruelled by injury.
    Port is another matter. Hinkley’s ability to quickly get the players believing in themselves and playing an enjoyable/winning brand of footy is remarkable. Doubt the manic Lyon ultra press would have worked for such a young team. The question is whether Port can sustain it or if they are one year wonders like the Crows.

  7. “This team could have coached itself” is a happy refrain after a backslapping win.
    Could it have?
    Does the coach make the team or does the team make the coach?
    These are impossible questions to answer.
    What is the sound of a coachless team of one-handed people clapping?

  8. Peter Fuller says

    David Wheadon many years ago classified two coaching types; one has a fixed idea of the game style he wants and moulds players and recruits to that end; the other looks at the playing stocks when he takes on a team and plans a playing style to exploit their talents. The former is typified by Ross Lyon, the latter by Dennis Pagan (with his use of Wayne Carey). Obviously there is overlap, and other successful coaches will approximate one of these ideal-types to a greater or lesser extent. It’s also clearly the case that as tactics evolve, coaching approaches are modified.
    In the contemporary AFL, a coach may be hampered by a lack of autonomy. How much control does he exercise over recruitment and list management? Does he have a decisive role in the fitness program, and injury rehab.?
    Unquestionably the best coach can’t succeed with inferior players, but the criterion for how good he is (or she in other sports) is the extent to which they value add (witness K. Hinkley 2013). Do they enable individuals to achieve their potential, and do they make the whole better than the sum of the parts.

    In team sports, the capacity to get unity among the players (and the key off-field staff) is critical. So the successful coach will also be judged by the extent to which he can manage the egos of the highly talented, and get them to subordinate their individual objectives to the well-being of the team. That aspect is of course true of any organisation which depends on collective outcome for success – businesses, public sector operationss, voluntary organisation, performing arts ensembles or families.

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