Coaching Solutions



Okay, already! Alright, alright, I’ll do it.

Somebody has to. I’ll coach an AFL team, damn it.

Anyone see Mark Harvey being interviewed on Friday night? Died black hair, sunnies, faded grey t-shirt. He looked like another mug who hangs out at the TAB a bit too much. I mean, take away the team jackets and sponsor’s backing boards, and hive of assistant coaches, and, bugger me, there’s the human.

The one that looks like he’s been gutted raw.

Poor bloke.

So I’ll do it. Give me a club.


Not Richmond. They squandered the 70s. A whole decade of empire-building, gone! They’re always broke. I don’t want to be Tony Jewel, looking like a lonely goose in the box, using a soiled hanky to wipe the fog off the window so I can see the match.

That was just sad. Poor bloke.

Then again, if I did get the Tigers, the first thing I’d do is sack their ‘Youth Policy’. It’s now entering its third decade! I’d replace it with something younger, like a ‘Talent Policy’ instead.

Get that proud club back to where it belongs, battling it out with North for 9th place.

The second thing I do would be to recruit the Collingwood box. The one with so many assistants in it, it looks like group sex. The forward coach, the back coach, the stoppages coach, the board magnet man, the piss boy and his bucket, poor bloke, the bloke who replaces the earphones when I throw them off in a fit, Captain Pichard’s swivel chair from the Starship Enterprise.

“Make it so.”

I could point a lord-like finger and say things like that.


But not actually at Collingwood. Buckley’s too busy working on his hiding-to-nothing. Lose, they should have kept Mick. Win, they should have just kept Mick. The most he can hope to prove, he already has. That the Pies, despite it all, are still in-bred.

The poor bloke.

Their set-up is second to none, not in the world. Money works. Like him or hate him, Eddy is a brilliant, passionate mind. No matter how well Nathan does, they’ll say “A monkey could do the job.”

Hm. Maybe I should take it, Bucks.


Ross, what you said the other day ‘bout loyalty was just dumb.

Dumb, dumb, dumb.

Which is weird, because you’re obviously a real smart bloke.


I wanna be like that. Say things. Both smart and silly. Watch people go all loopy over my smallest burp.

Quote stuff like: “The Ox is patient, but the earth is slow” or something freaky, with a straight face, just to see how thousands of media people react.


Maybe I’ll be a coach like Denis Pagan. I went and watched North train one day, on my break from a factory job just down the road, under the railways.

A young Byron Peckett peeled off for the handball when he should have shepherded. The closest of four assistants glanced at Pagan in the middle of the ground. Pagan gave the smallest, expressionless nod. The assistant marched over to Bryon and ripped him a new bum-hole.

All the while, assistants five and six were walking around with bags of footballs, throwing them, randomly, at players at the back of the queue, who would have to drop what they were doing and charge at goal and have a shot, then run back to the bigger drill. Just to keep them honest, and expecting the un-expected. Meanwhile, assistants 1 and 2 were already setting up the next drill.

If North had more than two cents, they’d be dangerous. Damn dangerous! Money, as I said. It’s just not fair.

The poor blokes.

I don’t want your job, Brad. You’re already pushing shit uphill. Good luck, mate. Total respect.


I wouldn’t want to be an assistant. either. I went and watched Carlton train once or twice, on my days off from working in the bush. Just to see what I could see. It always amazes me that more bush and suburban coaches don’t do that.

Hell, I wasn’t even coaching at the time. Just sniffing about.

And there was Libba.

The poor bloke.

Brownlow Medallist. Finals player. 300 player. A proud man.

“Fetch the ball, Libber…”

“Move the cones, Libba…”

“Fetch some more balls, Libba…”

“Stand over there, Libba…”

“Pack up the balls, Libba…”


It would be nice to be a Blighty sort of coach. An aristocrat. Blow in, blow out. Shout a bit of abuse. Put McCrabb up on a cross.

Back when he was making Grand Finals with Geelong, the back six, more often than not, (so one of them said), simply walked out, shrugged, and matched up according to height.

Goddamn, that seems so easy and lazy and fun! Never did win a flag with them, though.

The poor blokes.

I want players like Rehn and McLeod to win a few for me. I could do that.


Or maybe I’d coach like me. Like I do in the bush. Just, y’know, raise the volume of it a bit.


Be me. Yabbie Zurbo. Kennedy Zurbo. One of the great speakers. A leader of men. Nobody, bar nobody, spoke like Jeans.

I’d even throw in some Parkin, who would work himself up into a lather so much no players would stand in front of him, because of all his flying spit.

I can spit.

Why not? I’ll do it! I want no life. I want to be stressed, harassed, beset. To have people plotting against me, knives in my back, everybody second-guessing me in whispers that stop when I approach. Have the media constantly picking me apart, the fans blaming me for everything from knee injuries to small pox. The public acting like it’s my fault my young players go out and sometimes act like young men. Manage the tribulations and stuffed-up emotions of about 60 blokes. Deal with the relentless tension between the football department, the players and the committee. Bite my tongue on the politics. Put up with Richo shoving a mike in my face.

It would be worth it!

Imagine the surge! The intensity! The big and small victories! The battles. The chess, with elbows and big hits. To love something so physical, and have to be so tempered and smart!

What a life experience, what a ride! Good luck to everybody who ever coached at that level, I say. All of them, throughout the history of the game! Even the caretakers. Except maybe Grant Thomas.


Anyone see Mark Neeld’s interview? I reckon he looked the camera fair in the eye and gave it steel. And gave US steel. Mean and hard, from the gut. A look that said: “I’m here. So look out.”

A glare straight from the Malthouse book.


Bailey should have had that look. The poor bloke.


Jeez I love this time of year! The spinning wheel picks up eighteen men and shakes for all its worth. Just to see who slides sideways, and who falls off. And we all get entertained and nobody dies. We just walk around for a few weeks saying: “The poor bloke…”

And in a year, don’t even remember that.


Even if, like with KB, it guts a person for life.


Harvs, you did nothing wrong, mate. Not to me, or Freo. Injuries done you no good. Your team should have been a more defensive, but the committee could have chatted with you about that. You put in the yards, made the platform, only to have it pinched. Same thing happened when Hafey took over Collingwood. The Dockers, I reckon, are ripe. Good luck at the TAB.

Now shuffle over.

Ross, wait your turn! My life’s a bit of a mess. Coaching won’t ruin it. I want that fire, that addiction! I want to WANT! I want to be a prime mover, tapped deep into football’s vein. Be a part of its history. Even in purple. That’s how bad I want it.

I’m a hard working insomniac in an underpaid job. I’m the perfect candidate.



I’ll even dress silly sometimes, like Sheeds does. Become that little bit too much like a caricature of myself.

Hurry up! Give me that swivel chair! Damn the heartache!


I want my crack!



  1. Seems that the best coaches are the ones who reduce the game to simple bits and how to react. Matthews: if the ball is in dispute hit it forward. Clarkson: cluster all 18 around the ball. Malthouse: keep the ball in their half. Thompson: run with the ball.

    Not so easy in the heat of the game to change your plans when thing are going awry. And then it comes to luck half the time anyway…

  2. I’m gonna buy your book.

    And be your forward scout.

  3. I wanted to coach too Matt. This time last year. Sack Woosha, Kerr, Lynch and Nicoski. But the medication kicked in before I could do any real damage, and my therapist suggested that egomaniacs need to find a less destructive outlet for their fantasies. He suggested finding a website to inflict my world views on others.
    Your best piece ever, Matt. Grand Final contender. Do you write Sammy Kekovich’s scripts? “You know it makes sense”

  4. Dreams of empire.

    The Zurbo dynasty?

    Think about it Matt.

    Just don’t get Harvey’s sunnies.

  5. Have Collingwood appointed a coach for 2012.

    A real coach.

  6. Old Scotch are looking for a coach Turbo.

  7. Pamela Sherpa says

    What a circus it all is. Harvs can be satisfied that he did his best at Freo.

    My take on it all is that money clouds the mind too much. Because coaches are highly paid people start believing that they must be good! You sound like you’d make a good coach Matt- just like the rest of us!!

  8. Ive got a creeper out the back that needs coaching Matt. The best part of coaching is retiring, Then you get to look out on a shitty afternoon like today and No bloody training, Yes
    Great read

  9. Man! Get home from a hard, shitty day in the bush, and brilliant!
    Gus, was it Yabbie who said: Football is a simple game. Either we have it, or they do.
    Les, the Pod give blokes like me hope! How did so many forward scouts miss him for so long? I mean, he’s a mountain, what’s to miss?
    JB, a dynasty involve breeding. Somebody hook me up!
    Peter B, you are a classic!, full stop!
    Phantom, thank and no way! I am a bush boy.
    Pamala, “like the rest of us” INDEED! Haha.
    Thanks, Tony. Haven’t reached that point in my life yet!

  10. Oh, forgot a quick Barrassi story. He was back at Melb for his “5 year plan” in the 80s, in the middle of the MCG, taking circle work. me and a few mates had ridden down to watch. Jacko was pissed of Robbie Flower didn’t pass him the ball and went off! “@#%$ing club @%#$ing legend, I outta #$%&$ing knock your &#[email protected] damn %#[email protected] block off!” Etc, etc… What did the great hard man Barrassi do? Turn his back and instead tell of some skinny nobody. Haha.

  11. George Dubblya?

    You can’t get much more bush than Lalla Turbo. I was born and raised there. You jus a grasshopper flewd in on a northerly.

  12. You sound like the coach from The Roosters, whose main concern in Grand Final week was which speech to give the players before they ran out.

    They won the flag.

  13. Matt, breeding not completely necessary for footballing dynasties.

    Jock McHale was certainly his own dynasty. And not notably randy. At least on the public record.

    Though obviously it’s an attractive fringe benefit.

    No harm in trying. :)

  14. Hey, Phantom, a wise man whispered to me Old Scotch are looking for a coach!

    Shaken. Ha! Great story! I reckon there’s a book in that.

    JB. Indeed.

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