Neil Craig, home for a day

Neil Craig coached at AAMI stadium for the first time in Round 14, 2004 as caretaker coach for the Adelaide Football Club. His opponent on that day was Melbourne and Craig’s men had a 72-point victory (22.13-10.13).

Craig coached at AAMI Stadium for the last time this weekend on Saturday 24 August, 2013 as Adelaide played its last match at that stadium before its move to Adelaide Oval for the 2014 season. This time, Craig was the caretaker coach of the Melbourne Football Club and his charges lost by 68 points (7.10-18.12).

Here are some snippets from the press conference.

John Kingsmill [Footy Almanac]: Neil, when you began as a coach at AFL level, you were regarded as one of the pioneers in the sports science field. That term has been trashed right now…

Neil Craig: Yep! Well, not for everyone but I understand what you are saying.

JK: … Should sport scientists be accredited and would you like to redefine the role of science in sport?

NC: Ahh… mmm… it’s a good question. There isn’t an accreditation process for sport scientists at the moment. There should be a process involving checks when people get employed in football clubs, now, and not just for sport scientists. I think new processes will be for anybody, now, who comes into a football club. Redefine it? I don’t think you need to redefine it. That’s up to each footy club and how they actually view sports science.
The Essendon situation is really interesting. I don’t want to share a personal opinion on it but what I do know is that when everything settles down, it will be a great case study for concepts of leadership, player welfare, individual rights, media accuracy, trust, conflict of interest… It will be a fantastic case study and what it has already done, John, when it first started back in February of this year, was to immediately put every club on notice.
A lot of good will come out of this case in spite of it being a bit distasteful at the moment.

Michelangelo Rucci [The Advertiser]: Five or six years ago, you told us that this issue in cycling was a consequence of money pressure to give a return to vested interests. Hasn’t footy gone down the same path?

NC: No, no. There had been a culture inside cycling for a long time, Michelangelo. I think this whole thing needs to be put in perspective at the moment. I mean, I’m not trying to be flippant with that answer. If there were no sport science, we’d have no rule changes. Do you like the rules at the moment? Do you like the centre square or the diamond?

MR: You put it out to us that once sponsors started putting in big money, they expected a return. To get that return, won’t footy clubs take short cuts and breach their own ethics?

NC: It’s not just about supplements. It’s a bigger concept than that. You are always under the pressure in the way you conduct your business. And the bigger the stakes are, it becomes the ultimate test for any footy club. That’s why the Essendon situation will be good for the game because it will make people take stock in all sorts of ways.


JK: Neil, when you with Adelaide, a premiership was within reach. Now that you are older and wiser…

NC: Some people would not agree with that, John…

JK: … are you content to be a developmental coach, or do you still have that burn in your belly to win a cup?

NC: I think you are always developing. I remember vividly during my time in Adelaide when development became the buzzword. I remember when Simon Goodwin came to me as a senior player and said: “What about my development?”
When you talk development, the immediate picture people have in their heads is the development of young players of which we have a significant number and we will continue to get more. I understand that concept and that’s really important what you’ve asked but it’s also about team development.
It was a great example in today’s game that team development had little to do with youth. Team development is about discipline, playing within the rules, to not give away free kicks off the ball. Team development is about grit when you are in winning positions in away games.
Every footy club should be aiming to win a premiership to enable their players, support staff, management, supporters, sponsors and members to experience the ultimate because it’s fantastic.

MR: Neil, can I throw that same question in another way. At Adelaide, we understood that your ultimate goal was to be a premiership coach and that’s the way it should have been. At Melbourne, though, would that be your goal? You’d have a different perspective and a different understanding?

NC: Than to be a premiership coach? It’s really interesting, Michelangelo. The club should never shy away from that…

MR: I mean that at Adelaide, you faced make or break years. The club had to win a flag. I’m not suggesting that you should put a limit on what you can achieve at Melbourne but a premiership wouldn’t seem to be within your immediate reach and I wouldn’t have thought that a lack of a premiership there would break you.

NC: No. It will never break me because I have been involved in premierships as a player and as part of support staff at SANFL and AFL level. But it’s an important goal to aim at because every player craves to experience the absolute joy and excitement that it gives people. And if I get involved at AFL coaching again, I’ll always have that picture in my mind. That’s important. That always has to be there. My motive at the moment, with this particular club, is my passion to develop people, to develop them as young men and as leaders. That’s where I get my excitement from and everything else will flow from there.


JK: Do you enjoy the Victorian culture?

NC: It’s fantastic, John. The culture here (in South Australia) is fantastic as well. The SANFL has a big, long, significant history and I really enjoyed it… but Melbourne is a great city to live in. You can go and watch live footy which you can’t do here, as a coach, on a consistent basis.
The scrutiny in Melbourne is just as intense as it is here but you have more clubs than Adelaide. It’s fairer over there to share the workload. So, yes. My family and I have really enjoyed the city of Melbourne and the Melbourne Footy Club.

JK: Do you swap notes with Mark Williams?

NC: I don’t know if I have ever swapped a note with Mark Williams, John. I don’t know if that’s ever going to start. What do you reckon, Michelangelo? Can you see that happening?

MR: I don’t think I’m the right person to ask anymore, am I?

NC: Aren’t you still a Port supporter? Have you jumped off?

MR: I live and die by Port.




  1. Malcolm Ashwood says

    V Interesting Interview as always Neil Craig is a Fascinating Character have had the opinion for a long time that if you could combine a master strategist during Game Time which has always been Neils weakness with Neils strength with winning players over and planning you would have a Premiership twosome

  2. Barry Corfe says

    I wonder if he return to Adelaide Crows in some shape maybe a broard member or mentor role.

  3. I’d say that was extremely unlikely. Having escaped Adelaide’s fishbowl, Neil would have his sights set on higher levels – AFL management would be my guess but it’s crowded up there.

Leave a Comment