Neil Craig: Elite Performer (Part 2)

Photo with permission of the Norwood Football Club

 

 

Norwood

 

Neil retired as a player at the end of the 1989 season (https://www.footyalmanac.com.au/neil-craig-elite-performer-part-1/). He was appointed to coach Norwood in 1991 and would love to thank Wally Miller and the NFC for the chance to do so right off the bat.

 

Neil points out that coaching is a selfish and consuming lifestyle and without the support of his wife Chris and children Patrea and Brittany he wouldn’t have been able to be so involved with the sporting industry as long as he has. Chris has been a schoolteacher while Patrea is an organisational psychologist and Brittany has specialised in literature (bloody smart family, Neil’s qualifications are to come).

 

Neil coaching the Legs coincided with the arrival of the Crows in the AFL while Norwood were slightly on the wane after the successful Neil Balme era (we might have had some robust discussion about Norwood players coming back and forth from the Crows). He adds in retrospect he would have more empathy with the player and had more communication. However, Neil quite rightly adds it was his job to put on the park what he considered the strongest side to give Norwood the best chance to win with his perception of attitude a strong part of it.

 

Neil was an innovator, in particular the Lycra guernseys. I am a strong supporter of Neil on this one as the idea to make us harder to tackle makes perfect sense. Unfortunately the guernseys ripped easily – it wasn’t the last time in reality that Neil was ahead of his time.

 

The highlight of Neil’s tenure at the Parade was making the Grand Final in 1993. Norwood had come from the Elimination Final defeating Centrals, Glenelg and Port on the way but had run out of petrol and Woodville West Torrens were way too good (I admit we may have retired to the bar before the final siren). The Legs lost the First Semi in ‘94 and the Preliminary Final in ‘95 both to Central District which turned out to be Neil’s last game in charge at the Parade.

 

Neil added professionalism at the Parade. Wally Miller was involved heavily in Neil ending up at Adelaide FC – he felt Neil just had to be involved at the elite level. He also worked in the sports science side of things with Australian cycling and went to the 1996 Atlanta Olympics adding it was a privilege to be involved at the elite level and regards Charlie Walsh as a genius.

 

Neil’s qualifications are (bloody dictionary in itself):

 

  • Bachelor of Education in physical education
  • MA in sports science
  • Honorary PhD for contribution to sports and science in coaching from Flinders University

 

The Crows years

 

In 1997 and ‘98 Neil was fitness coach at the Crows and in his own words: “we absolutely smashed them with 13 weeks of training before Christmas.” (Knowing how much of a fitness nut Neil is that is bloody frightening). Neil adds Malcolm Blight was a seasoned experienced coach already having been through the ringer having been sacked at North Melbourne (he was the last playing coach) and then at Geelong having reached the Grand Final three times, falling just short.

 

The Crows were extremely fit and Neil had the players cherry ripe for finals psychologically. Not only the Adelaide players believed they were fitter than any other side, the other clubs feared Adelaide in that regard. The Crows consistently ran over sides especially when it counted. Of course, the holy grail was achieved with the back to back flags (Neil’s influence on the flags is well and truly acknowledged by the players and within the footy industry).

 

Neil, then, through his involvement working with the SA sports science field was involved with cycling in the build up to the Sydney Olympics and working with Charlie Walsh and Mike Nunan. It was fantastic to be involved with, incredibly stimulating and a massive learning experience. To watch and learn off Charlie getting Australia to the top of the mountain, effectively from worst to first in the world, was a privilege to be involved with. Neil found Charlie to be a fantastic mentor.

 

Photo with permission of Ray Titus

 

In 2001, Neil returned to the Adelaide Crows as an assistant coach under Gary Ayres. He then became head coach in 2004 through to 2011, finishing minor premier in 2005 only to lose two Preliminary Finals (2005 and 2006) in Neil’s tenure.

 

Neil and I discussed at length many things. Yes, I was critical re. Kris Massie left on Buddy in the 2007 Elimination Final, Matty Bode not starting on the ground after half time against West Coast in that infamous 2006 preliminary final loss (while a lot of the footy world queries West Coast about that Preliminary Final to Neil’s credit he replies: “where’s your proof?”) Neil was very honest and admitted in hindsight he would have done several things differently and may not have been so regimented and made a few more moves. However, he was very firm and that it is absolute garbage re. coaches being sacked over game plans – not having a Plan B etc.

 

I couldn’t agree more it is CRAP, the majority of followers don’t notice the subtle changes like pushing a half forward up to the contest or a player behind the ball and don’t understand when teams peel off and go into ‘keep possession’ mode. ALL clubs have multiple plans. To use highly respected coach John Griffen’s favourite saying “it’s a fine line between pleasure and plain” summed up Neil Craig’s time at the Crows perfectly. The amount of criticism Neil has copped has been insane – if Roo hadn’t got suspended, if Scotty Thompson hadn’t kicked out on the full etc. An ounce of luck and Neil would have been a Premiership Coach (Roo sums it up very well).

 

Neil’s biggest regret at the Crows is not utilizing Alan Stewart’s talents more. In a senior recruitment role for 13 years at the Crows, Alan’s office was just down from Neil’s. He wishes he’d chewed the fat more on a daily basis and had Alan more involved on game day. Alan had been a successful coach in his own right at Central District. Neil had John Reid in a mentoring and helping role to some extent but feels he should have added Alan.

 

Neil adds showdowns were fantastic to be involved with and were just like the old Norwood v Port rivalry.

 

 

(a fantastic against the odds win in Showdown fifteen in 2008. Norwood supporters watch the highlights and what is the irony?)

 

In Neil’s words:

 

A coach must question opinions, be balanced and then make what they consider the correct decision for the good of the club which isn’t necessarily the most popular decision. The coach is the most senior influential person in the club. To achieve the best possible result with the playing group they must have support to flourish with a healthy understanding of exactly where the club is at. This must be done honestly and not just judging by the scoreboard. To do this requires you to have good communication and dialogue with key personnel such as Rob Chapman, Stephen Trigg, John Reid and the board.

Let’s remember these aren’t always good news conversations but they must be mature and honest. There is generally a pattern: some poor results which results in bad publicity both media and these days social media until eventually the bubble bursts.

 

Neil and I discussed mental health (thanks Tom Field).

 

Let’s remember a coach is appointed and they are meant to have the answer for everything and everyone. Heaven forbid they can’t have any personal problems or situations in their own life.

 

Clubs need to set up contacts for the coaching panel (especially the senior coach) early on with club sponsors so hopefully there is then something to fall back on. A senior coach goes from being fully immersed 24-7 to waking up the next day unemployed. Counselling must be offered (really encouraged).

 

While we are getting better in general the macho bullshit “I’m ok” still exists. Clubs also are gradually thinking more that a coach doesn’t lose their skillset – America and Europe in particular really value experience. Geelong with Bomber Thompson and Richmond with Damian Hardwick are classic examples that just because seven years have passed a change in coach doesn’t automatically have to happen.

 

Neil adds that right through to his departure the mature conversations were held at the Adelaide FC and that he holds Rob Chapman, Steven Trigg, John Reid and the board in high regard. He makes the very significant point that the Crows were the most professional AFL club he was involved with. He regards Norwood as his home SANFL club likewise the Crows at AFL level.

 

 

Post Crows

 

Neil moved to Victoria and was appointed as the Director of Sports Performance of the Melbourne FC from the beginning of the 2012 season. The role involved mentoring young players and the assistant coaches. Unfortunately, the Dees weren’t that stable in a lot of areas and to some degree were in a state of disarray. Neil ended up being the caretaker coach when Melbourne and Mark Neeld parted ways mid-way through 2013.

 

I’ll add Neil was on a hiding to nothing, not only the playing list it also included the departure of key off field personnel Cameron Schwab and Don McLardy. Neil left Melbourne at the end of the 2013 season.

 

He then joined Essendon FC, originally as the head of coaching development and strategy. He was soon promoted to the position of General Manager of Performance. Neil was the overseer of coaching, development and high performance – effectively the coaching staff reported to him. While it was great to be involved with a huge Victorian club, arriving just after the supplement saga wasn’t great timing. I suspect there were ongoing issues and in a lot of regards it was a pretty hard gig (there was some satisfaction working with Simon Goodwin and Nathan Bassett who were assistant coaches).

 

In September 2015 Neil moved to Carlton in the role of Director of Coaching, Development and Performance. He was massively impressed with Brendon Bolton – the best young coach he had been involved with (he hopes and believes Brendon should get another opportunity in the AFL if that is what he desires). With the involvement of Steven Trigg, Stephen Kernahan and Andrew McKay it was the closest in environment he felt to the Crows (another reminder that just because Victoria is the heartland of footy doesn’t automatically mean they do it better).

 

From October 2017, Neil worked as “a consultant for highest performance to look how we operate and see how we can improve” with the England Rugby Union team. His focus included leadership, communication and teamwork. Part of his role was also to be a confidant to head coach Eddie Jones. England made the final of the 2019 World Cup but fell over at the final hurdle (I admit I find it fascinating trying to get all coaches on the same wavelength – have the introvert get their point across while trying to make sure the extrovert isn’t domineering as well). Neil’s coaching work in a footy sense was to try and teach the rugby players how to take in footy terms a ‘mark’, trying to teach them better use and positioning of their body. I really enjoyed the rugby side of our conversations, it very much took me out of my comfort zone.

 

Neil has also recently being doing some mentoring of Stewey Dew and helping out the Gold Coast Suns in general.

 

Overall, Neil has had an incredible sporting life as a player and as a coach. He is an incredible asset to sport in general. I have no doubts further awards await! Thanks Craigy (as much as I have listened and learnt off any one I have interviewed).

 

Nathan Bassett adds:

 

Neil is consistent, clear, detailed and trustworthy. You knew where you stood with Neil and you were clear on what was expected from you. There was very little grey. His intensity commanded the room but he can be warm and witty. He certainly mellowed with age. All my best football, at the start and at the end of my career, was played with Neil as the coach, and I am indebted to have been coached by him.

 

Yet for all that he could never work out how many O’s lose and loose had!

 

Mark Ricciuto’s perspective:

 

Neil Craig was an outstanding coach he was hard working, prepared exhaustively, and made us better people. He taught us how far we could push ourselves and each other.

 

Neil was super prepared pre-game which worked most of but not all of the time. It’s such a fine line – in 1997-98 we had the necessary luck, in 2005-06 we didn’t ( I didn’t help the cause missing the first final v St Kilda in ‘05 through suspension).

 

Neil has a fantastic sense of humour and is the king of one liners such as:

 

    • “It’s better to have an empty house than a bad tenant” after throwing up when training hard.
    • “The calipers don’t lie” in regards to how hard you had trained and how disciplined you had been with your diet.
    • “A fat blowfly is a slow blowfly”, in other words get fit or you will not be at your best.

 

 

Photo with permission of Ray Titus

 

 

Michael Aish adds:

 

I can’t speak too highly of Neil as a coach. I was on my last legs in 1991 so a new coach certainly gives you some new life. His passion and ability to teach was what stood out to me. He invested into each player professionally and personally. He rebuilt a list and took the club to a GF. He was very tough but fair. He expected like any coach that if you do the work you will get the result. His background in sports science brought a new direction. Neil’s humour was always apparent and his off the cuff jabs were some of the best. Neil’s record as a player and coach is up there with the best.

 

LOVE anyone to share the article and please feel free to comment, thank you!

 

 

Read Part 1 of Rulebook’s profile of Neil Craig:

 

(https://www.footyalmanac.com.au/neil-craig-elite-performer-part-1/)

 

 

More from Rulebook (including many articles about Norwood FC)  HERE

 

 

Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.

 

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Comments

  1. Tim Wedding says

    What a fantastic article, it made me re live these years, the good and the bad. I have always felt that this great football mind deserved to coach a premiership side. One day he very well may. If he was to come back to the parade or to the Adelaide crows, I for one would welcome him with open arms. Great player, excellent coach, champion bloke.

  2. Peter Higginbottom says

    Oh gee Malcolm another great read. I lived through those playing and coaching years of Craig’s. I always had an impression he was a bit aloof. Your interview showed that this was not the case. He was absolutely dedicated to achieve the best possible result no matter in what capacity he was involved. Will be remembered as one of the greats in sport. The games were all the better for his presence. He stands out as a great reminder of what can be achieved if one is willing to learn from others.

  3. David Magwood says

    Malcolm fantastic insight forthright and honest article not glossed over as most are these days fantastic

  4. Brenton Woolford says

    Had the privilege of working with him …. absolute quality human being and a brilliant coach in so many areas .. obsessive personality which can be a strength with strong people around you .. The Crows at the end suffered a great loss from not having a strong leader around Neil .. they have paid a very serious price culturally from losing him from the organisation! Until they get that leadership and knowledge base back in their coaching set up they will struggle…. losing people like Josh Francou and Noble has exacerbated this! They were so close to getting it done while he was there ..

  5. At last, article 2 about Craigie, bloody fantastic Rulebook. It’s my belief Neil was just the right man to lead the Redlegs after Balme’s departure. Under his tenure we saw many exciting players emerge, notably Nathan Bassett. I admit to being most disappointed when he moved on from coaching the Legs.Just like Robert Oatey had done years ago, Neil left a side cherry ripe for Rohde to take to the next level..

    After an exceptional time as the Crows’ fitness coach, his tenures first assistant coach and finally Head Coach were fine achievements, but, as you pointed out Malcolm, that little bit of luck refused to come his way. It’s funny how things can turn out that way as, over here in SA, the Port Magpies have won several Flags by under a goal, often in controversial circumstances. But that’s another story.

    I met Neil in a deli a number of years back and was taken by how friendly he was to me, a perfect stranger. I agree, he’s a champoin bloke.

  6. Chris Prime says

    Malcolm -Neil is the reason I was fortunate enough to play League footy. He took a chance on an overweight country kid that didn’t quiet fit the mold of a league footballer.

  7. Mark Stasiak says

    Fascinating read mate! Always enjoy your articles, but this is one of you’re best. Such an interesting character that was ahead of his time in so many ways

  8. Daryl Buttery says

    Great stuff again Malcolm. I think down the track people will realize Craigy was so far ahead of his time.

  9. Grant Day says

    Great article / story Malcolm. Alan Stewart also shaped many people’s footy lives and has gone unheralded for years.

  10. Martin Rumsby says

    I used to love listening in to Neil’s quarter time and three-quarter time addresses whilst he was at Norwood – very informative for someone involved with high school footy teams. Comparisons between his tenure at Norwood and that of Robert Oatey are valid. Craigy, in particular, was very unlucky not to have a premiership as part of his coaching CV, but like Oatey he has had a hugely positive influence on the coaching careers of others. His achievements beyond Aussie Rules speak for the quality of his ability to impart his sporting knowledge. Another great article, Malcolm!

  11. Walter Taca says

    Lol that tie looks like our Norwood high Tie! Looks like he did when he was head prefect in 73! Neils one of the good guys and has achieved so much in his life .

  12. Simon Trenorden says

    Malcolm I actually thought The Crows played their best footy under Neil in the second half of 2009. That was when he unhinged them and that was as close to the Oatey/Nunan style of footy they played.
    They played some really attractive footy and it was a shit second half and a shit decision that didn’t get them over the line against Collingwood.
    They had very good sides in 2005/06 but they were far more defensive in their approach.
    Latter 2009 was when they attacked and they may not have had as good a team but it’s amazing how far you can go with an attacking mindset.

    Excellent read Rulebook

  13. Another excellent read RB. Brilliant. Would love to know more about 1) how he ensured that each coaching group he was involved with worked as a team eg did he do some personality/psychological profiling to assist here and 2) what sort of mental health support Clubs provided head coaches

  14. Tony Cove says

    Another interesting read about a man who was one of the most influential characters in SA sport between the years 1990-2010. Neil Craig was very strong willed, had revolutionary ideas and wasn’t afraid to upset people BUT what a skill set he had! Glad that Alan Stewart got a mention – a mentor to many, maybe you can interview him one day, Malcolm!

  15. Well done on another great read Rulebook. Such an interesting history he’s had after his playing days. I’d certainly read his autobiography. Maybe you can extend your writing to part 3? What would Neil have done differently in his coaching years.. different psychology approach using aspects of other sports? Anything that he would never do?

  16. Luke Reynolds says

    Impressive insights Malcolm. Seems N.Craig was well prepared and a super rounded person before coaching the Crows. Flags are bloody hard to win in a 16 or 18 team comp, some very good coaches have consistently put their team thereabouts without taking the prize but should still be considered very good coaches. Neale Daniher at Melbourne a strong case in point (arguably as successful as anyone for them post Norm Smith), Craig at the Crows another.

    Very interesting comment about Adelaide being the most professional AFL club he’d been at!

  17. Terry Barker says

    As usual, a GREAT article Malcolm.

    You get the very best out of the people you interview and … as per the case of Neil in question … it makes for entertaining and fascinating reading.

    As an avid Crows supporter, I greatly admired Neil’s coaching style and obviously, his contributions in 1997 / 98 are legendary.

    I knew about his time and achievements with Charlie Walsh and Co but had no idea he worked with Eddie Jones and the England rugby team. Obviously a man who goes about his job effectively but unobtrusively.

    Looking forward to more articles from the Footy Almanac. Thanks again Malcolm

  18. Another great read, RB.
    What a fascinating and complex character Neil Craig is.
    It is almost as if he is too intelligent for football.

  19. Campbell says

    Another great read continuing from part 1, really interesting to hear so much about Neil Craig throughout his years in footy

  20. Thanks Malcolm, a really interesting interview. Neil’s forthright comments are a fascinating insight into his career highs and lows

  21. DBalassone says

    Great read Malcolm. Always had the highest regard for Craig as a coach and “elite performer” is a phrase that I think correctly describes him. He was ahead of his time in the sports science/high performance space as a coach.
    One thing that always stuck with me re Craig is that a few weeks into his tenure (in 2004) the Crows were smashed by Brisbane by 140 odd points. I remember thinking he had no chance of keeping the job – he was a caretaker coach and no more. 12 months later they had topped the ladder and were very stiff not to walk away with some silver ware (as was the case in 2006). He turned that club around.

  22. Guy McRedmond says

    Malcolm very interesting read mate. I wasn’t aware he worked with the English Rugby team in 2019.

    I liked Bassett’s thoughts on him. I got the impression that’s what he was like. Regimented with very little grey area. I think he was criticised unfairly for being too much like this by the end if his time with the crows. I thought he was an excellent coach, and very much ahead of his time in a few areas.

    Completey agree re the crows fitness in 97/98. Especially 97, running out that preliminary final.

  23. Malcolm Wooldridge says

    I played with Neil in the Norwood High School u/13s in 1969. We had an awesome team winning our region undefeated ( most games winning by 15 goals +) , and then going on to win the best in the Metropolitan area. Craig , of course was a standout at centre, but we also had Stephen Deckert at CHF ( kicked 14 goals one game), Guistino Mazzeo at FF ( was averaging around 8 goals a game from memory), John Naumann at CHB ( I think), miraculous Fred Leaney ( who took mark of the year every week), George Worontschak in ruck, Roger Ind, Tom Lymberopoulos, Mark Enright, Gary Johnson. I just made up the numbers running around doing very little, getting the odd kick, handball or goal. Neil was also a talented tennis player, but it was one sport I could beat him at.

  24. Mark Shilton says

    Really enjoyable read Malcolm. Neil’s credentials are outstanding. An amazing playing and coaching record. He really was a trailblazer in the field of elite performance/sports science. From what I can gather from a mate who played under him at Norwood between 91 – 93,, he was a hard task master but that’s what’s required to win premierships.

  25. Malcolm Venn says

    Ran into him walking through the Melbourne Central arcade last year. Said g’day, from one Norwood ex to another. He stopped and chatted – I mentioned I remembered him, Basher Morgan, Golden Boy Clutterbuck , David Palm and Michael Matto from lunch time kick to kick – he stood there with his mouth open….couldn’t believe I’d dropped all those names from school…we shook hands and he walked away muttering ‘Michael Matto….unbelievable…’

  26. Jen Williams says

    Loved working with him at SASI. What fun we had ! Great article Malcolm but think the College Womens Lacrosse Lycra came out just before Norwood.. PS I also loved the way he got players to put up hands as a zone defence. (Much like basketball) where it looked like there was no room for a kickout as all of the space was taken on the small Norwood ground.

  27. Great read. I like the title “Elite Performer” – reminds me of you Book!

  28. Sandy Pisani says

    Jen Williams yes, those were the days, working in an environment surrounded by true professionals and mentors. They were loads of fun too! great memories. Well done Craigy

  29. Thanks Malcolm. With a highly unique AFL season about to recommence with various imponderables likely to present themselves as opportunities and challenges I wonder what an innovator like Neil Craig might do.

  30. Lovely Lisa says

    Another good read Book, he was an innovator for sure.

  31. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Tim thank you,Peter glad to give a bit more of a inside look of Craigy,David greatly appreciated that was certainly the idea.Brenton couldn’t agree more I reckon you nailed it.Fisho Neil’s,GENUINE care and interest in what other people do and what is going on in there life is one of his best characteristics.Tractor you were more than handy bloody rapt that you are part of the Redlegs family and a legend in SA footy in you’re own write.Mark and Darryl you and v much so.Grant thank you and I thought,Neil’s point about,Alan Stewart was v significant in so many ways it was honest by Neil and also showed how highly,Alan is thought of.Martin you are a student of the game and a v good junior coach I can see you listening intently and learning it is a great strength of yours.Walter I hadn’t thought of that until you said it but totally agree and yep thank you.thanks folks

  32. very comprehensive article Book, he is clearly a man of many talents. Maybe he could assist the Redbacks??

  33. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Simon don’t quite agree re defensive,05 and 06 but we’re certainly v attacking in 09 yes a touch more luck against the pies who knows.Charlie yes he did re profiling the mental health chat side of things was more a chat what could and should be done to obtain a better outcome.Tony well said I admit I don’t know,Alan but certainly know how massively highly he is regarded with in footy.Raf thanks mate I reckon in that I’ve interviewed,Neil for about,4 hours all up he deserves a break from me.Luke thank you and v much so a fact lost on a hell of a lot of footy followers I felt it was a v interesting point re the Crows professionalism a massive tick and as I said a reminder things aren’t always automatically better in,Victoria.Terry greatly appreciated.
    Smokie thank you v much so and I thought exactly that several times over the course of the interview.
    Campbell and Wynton thank you and v much so.DB thank you and we spoke about that particular game I reckon,Craigy had the same feeling yes turned around the club v quickly alas not much luck when it counted.
    thanks folks

  34. David Haynes says

    Really interesting article yet again Malcolm. Very interesting point regarding Alan Stewart. I always thought Neil was a super well prepared coach and his teams were always very fit. I think he perhaps suffered with a determined focus on what he believed in at times to the detriment of doing something that was needed. Your point about Buddy Franklin and Kris Massie for example being one of them. He also had shit loads of bad luck just when the Crows didn’t need it. Eg. Losing Ben Hudson and Trent Hentschel just before finals. I think if you lose your lead ruck and key forward, any team would struggle a bit plus of course Roo getting a bloody disease normally only found in dogs!! Above all else though, Neil always came across to me as a thoroughly decent man and someone who passionately loved the game and you can’t really ask any more from someone than that!

  35. Excellent read Malcolm. Yes sometimes the media are very harsh and it comes down to an ounce of luck. The Crows deserved a flag in his time.

    He is such a forward thinker I would love to see him back coaching at some level.

    Would love to hear his thoughts on some other coaches Eddie Jones Darren Lehmann Rick Charlesworth Phil Smyth Charlie Walsh etc

  36. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Guy thank you yep v much ahead of his time.Malcolm W and V thank you for bringing up some,Norwood High memories some names there I hadn’t heard mentioned in years good memories.Mark greatly appreciated.
    Jen and Sandy great to hear from a couple of SA sporting legends good point re zone defence and Norwood oval,Jen,Neil enjoyed working there also and rates both of you v highly.Superb,TC gold as always.Mickey v good question.LL thank you and v much so.Jags his professionalism would not go astray at the Redbacks.
    David I reckon you nailed it.Raj thank you good point likewise thanks folks

  37. Cheryl-lee VanaGelis says

    Ohh Malcom!
    You’ve done it again, another story full of stirring moments bringing all to life as if you are reliving and actually in the moment or wishing you were there too!. Just love your narrative literature – continuously stimulating and touches the emotion strings keeping ones brain tuned to the next paragraph. You’ve stirred me again with your genius.

  38. Thanks for that Malcolm, it was a great article. I think Neil Craig cops a fair amount of flak from those who are ill-informed about the game.
    As you mentioned in the article, re: Buddy and Kris Massie, if Scott Thompson doesn’t kick the ball out on the full, Buddy doesn’t kick the goal.
    And the so-called plan B, etc, every coach at AFL makes adjustments to the team during the course of the game, what most fans don’t see is the changes made, because they are too emotionally invested.

    I think a number of fans need to visit the Crows’ museum at West Lakes and have a look at some of the footage on display there (if it is still showing), of Craigy training the players as if they were in the middle of a match.
    He brought them in for a team talk as if it was quarter time, they had the team banners around the outside of the team, just as they do on match day, there was piped in crowd noises and sirens, but I think they were playing an internal trial.
    Those were the lengths he would go to, to get the players used to match day, so it was familiar for them.
    Plus they used video screens of the forward 50 and defensive 50 to practise kicking into and out of the respective 50m arcs during his time, so he was certainly an innovator.

  39. John Milton says

    Thank you Malcolm for another fascinating read and further insights of Neil Craig’s outstanding (and probably unrecognised in some quarters) career.
    Cheers
    John M

  40. Daryl Schramm says

    A fantastic contribution to this website Ernest. Your article and comments cover Neil’s career and achievements very well, and match my very few experiences with him. Always enquiring, helping, and learning. The best part of all of this are those NHS names. I’d forgotten most of them but recall them all. There are a couple of Kensington Gardens FC links there as well. Fun times.

  41. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Cheryl Lee while I don’t think I’m in that class I will gladly take the compliment.Tails the lack of plan b etc is ridiculous and shows a lack of footy nous,Neil unbelievably professional and v much a innovator.John thank you.Daryl thank you ahh,Ernest after deadly,Ernest my v first nickname courtesy of Paul Haynes ( I speak to
    Paul semi regularly ) yes definitely a few blasts from the pasts have come up and spoke to Greg Edwards last week,Sounda definitely one of the best kicks of a footy I’ve seen thanks folks

  42. Steve Taylor says

    I don’t get the hate from Crows fans towards him.
    He took over from a reasonably divisive coach in Ayres and had us playing some of our best football at a consistent level for four years.
    Had the club on the brink of grand final appearances two years in a row which is a tough ask, and history shows that West Coast were chemically enhanced. Plus, we lost a main ruckman early in the 06 prelim final to a knee injury, severely damaging our chances.
    People point to the Elim final of 08 against the hawks where buddy kicked the winning goal, but if Scott Thompson DOESN’T kick the ball out on the full, the hawks don’t have a shot at goal, Adelaide wins the game.
    People also forget that Craigy was such an innovator.
    He was the coach who brought in tempo footy.
    Adelaide used a form of virtual reality training to work on forward 50 entries and defensive 50 exits.
    There was a reason why he was headhunted to work with other footy club’s after being at Adelaide, then to work with the English rugby side at the World Cup indicates his reputation has not been tarnished.

  43. Hey Malcolm Wooldridge, what a blast!
    Yes they were great memories of playing at Norwood High School. It was so much fun being ruck to Craigy. Just tap it near him and he’s be off. The rest of the team were really, really good as well. I also played with Kensington Gardens and played a few matched with Phil Carman when he was banned from playing with Norwood after Collingwood found out he was from Edenhope in Victoria.
    I remember Neil’s first day at Norwood High -1A or 1B I think. The shy kid from Maitland. He was in my twin sister Janet’s class for many years and it was a joy playing with such a freakish talent. He was pretty smart but not a gifted student at High school. We were friends then. He was a pretty straight down the line and confident sort of guy.
    My greatest achievement was to beat him and John Naumann in a cross country run.
    We were both selected for the State U16 squad training. He waltzed in and I snapped my archilles and chose music over footy, Melbourne over Adelaide thank god. Norwood wanted me to train with them but I hated getting hurt and my mother talked me out of it.
    I went to Flinders with him before going to Melbourne.
    Years later worked on the AFL Footy Show and was set to meet him before he dropped out.
    Love to catch up with the team.
    Yuri Worontschak yuri.com.au

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