David Dunbar: A coaching life that continues.

While already a well-known figure in the football world, David Dunbar is also an innovator; one of the new breed of coaches who is taking advantage of emerging platforms that provide unique coaching opportunities for the wider community.


Coaching through the AFL Coaches’ Association affiliated ‘One on One Football’ (oneononefootball.com.au) scheme, enabling individuals and small groups to book coaching sessions, and initiating a kick coaching program through Advanced High Performance (advancedhp.com.au), Dunbar is at the forefront of working with eager players at all stages who want to improve their game.


Having coached at every level of the game, and from one side of the country to the other, Dunbar’s is an enviable CV. He has seen it all, good and bad – from Frankston and Port Melbourne playing days to time spent in coaching ranks at Hawthorn and Melbourne – and has a lifetime of stories and experiences that he can now bring to bear in his new role.


Of course, football is all about the stories, and Dunbar has played a leading part in more than one of these over the years, most recently due to his dedication to finding out about opposition teams. From his hard-hatted confrontation with Alastair Clarkson, to his infamous lawn mowing exploits at Collingwood training, Dunbar has set a mighty challenge for those following in his wake.


Coaching has been a lifetime’s commitment for Dunbar, and as he says, ‘I was always interested in going that way, even when I was playing. It’s a great test to go into it without the experience of having coached before. You certainly make a lot of mistakes along the way, and it’s only the experience of doing it that and then learning from them that makes you wiser and better prepared for what comes at you.’


Dunbar has been helped in his learning by a variety of personalities along the way, and acknowledges their contribution to his remarkable career. ‘I’ve been lucky to learn from a lot of coaches – Judge, Eade, Roos and Connolly – and had David Wheadon mentor me for a few years.’ Wheadon, of course, is most recently the author of the highly regarded The Art of Coaching, consolidating decades of assistant coaching experience into combined inspiration and education.


As well as the amusing moments, there have been some solid and enviable achievements along the way for David Dunbar. On the coaching staff at Hawthorn between 1997 and 1999, Dunbar was part of the club’s pre-season premiership in 1999. After spending four years at Port Melbourne (2000 to 2003), where he had previously led the Reserves team to a rare feat – an undefeated season premiership in 1996 – Dunbar spent time working in Melbourne for the Fremantle Dockers before he headed west to spend three years in charge at East Fremantle. After this stint, he became the Opposition Coach at Melbourne, followed by a season overseeing Opposition for Brisbane, before rounding out his time at the Lions in the Pro Scout role. Along the way, Dunbar has helped to usher an impressive array of players into successful AFL careers, ranging from Aaron Davey and Harry Taylor to Cale Hooker and Josh Kennedy, all of whom have made a substantial impact on the competition.


It’s quite a roll call for one person, but wait – there’s more. Wherever football is played, Dunbar has been. As well as spending part of a summer playing for Nightcliffe in the Northern Territory, he was director of coaching at the Sandringham Dragons in 2004, and earlier played a part at state level, assistant coaching the VFL against South Australia in 2002, while filling the same role for the WAFL against Victoria in both 2004 and 2007.


Given this, it’s worth asking – which, out of all of the coaching experiences he’s shared in, would be David Dunbar’s most memorable, treasured and proudest? The answer comes quickly: ‘My proudest coaching moment was getting Port Melbourne into the 2002 Grand Final. Half our side was in Sydney, so the management of that with Port Melbourne players was a credit to both clubs. We beat Geelong in the qualifying final, containing Bartel, Ablett, Johnson, Chapman and Kelly – just to name a few. But they got us late in the Grand Final, after we were in front at three-quarter time.’


These are the sorts of memories and experiences that Dunbar is now bringing to a new generation, in a new format. Calls from contacts await him, with youngsters in the junior competitions looking for assistance, making progress, and learning, so that they can create – and continue – their own stories in seasons to come.


David Dunbar


Do you really enjoy the Almanac concept?
And want to ensure it continues in its current form, and better? To help keep things ticking over please consider making your own contribution.

Become an Almanac (annual) member – CLICK HERE
One off financial contribution – CLICK HERE
Regular financial contribution (monthly EFT) – CLICK HERE





  1. I love hearing these stories of passionate, dedicated footy people who are a key part of the foundation and structure of the game. Good to read a story from you again Lynda. The Dees must be driving you crazy – I tipped them on the weekend in the hope of getting one back on the field. Oh so close!

Leave a Comment