General Footy Writing: In appreciation of Dean Laidley

By Josh Barnstable

The man affectionately known as The Junkyard Dog started his career at the West Coast Eagles in 1987, playing 10 games that season. He played a total of 52 games for the Eagles, clocking up 873 disposals, kicking 9 goals and 7 Brownlow votes, despite missing out on the 1991 season due to knee and back problems.

He moved to North Melbourne after the 1992 season, quickly establishing himself as a vital part of the hungry defence of the Roos. In his first season, 1993, he picked up 269 possessions, kicked a goal and earned 6 Brownlow votes. The year after was one of his best seasons of his career, playing 24 games, getting 439 disposals and earning 4 Brownlow votes as the Roos charged towards the Preliminary Final only to be defeated by the Cats.

It took until 1996 for Laidley to taste Premiership success, with the 43-point defeat of the Sydney Swans resulting in his first premiership medallion.

He played 11 games in 1997 and gave the game away after 151 games, 2464 disposals, 456 marks, 148 tackles and kicking 15.22 for West Coast and North Melbourne.

Laidley went on to coach at Collingwood as an assistant and eventually took over from Denis Pagan as full-time coach for North Melbourne.

Laidley was one of the smartest tacticians and he had the idea of keeping North Melbourne up in the finals so membership numbers wouldn’t drop, instead of taking the approach Carlton and the Western Bulldogs have taken: play a couple of bad seasons, pick up some highly rated youngsters and rebuild from that.

He was also known for drafting recycled players instead of young players. Some players proved to be a total flop, including Jonathon Hay, Ben Davies and Cameron Thurley, but some have been a masterstroke, including Sam Power, Nathan Thompson and Kasey Green.

In Laidley’s coaching career at the Kangaroos, he coached a total of 149 games, winning 72, losing 75 and having two draws. That is a winning percentage of 48.3%, which is acceptable. He coached five games in the finals, with the Roos winning just one and losing four. The most wins he took the Roos to was 15 in 2007, when the Roos finished 4th on the ladder. The Roos won just 7 games under Laidley the year before and have won just 4 games up until before Round 13, 2009. In 2007 Laidley had a 60% winning record, a career-high.

In my opinion, Laidley was a fantastic coach for North Melbourne and in recent years he’s set up a team that will challenge for the premiership in the next few years. This year, I think that Laidley knew that he would quit halfway through the year so he has blooded many youngsters including Jack Ziebell, Sam Wright, Ben Warren, Cruize Garlett and Levi Greenwood, and given extra game time to Ben Ross, Todd Goldstein and Gavin Urquhart.

Laidley quitting now will give the new coach time to get ready, get to know his players and start fresh next year with a main goal: make the finals. Other goals include keeping the membership numbers up, keep the youngsters coming through and handling of some wayward players. Good luck to the new coach, he will need it.

By the way, here is a list of some people who I think can coach North Melbourne to their fifth Premiership:

John Longmire
Glenn Archer
Anthony Stevens
Adam Simpson
Darren Crocker
Brett Allison
Wayne Carey
Denis Pagan
James Hird
Nathan Buckley

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