Tigers need a young coach for a new era

By Paul Daffey

In 2004 Hawthorn finished fifteenth with four wins and a percentage of 70 while Richmond finished sixteenth — last — with a percentage of 69. The clubs were separated by one percentage point. I know these figures because they’re burned in my mind. It hurts and confuses me to think what has happened in the years since. I’m as flummoxed as most fans about just what is the problem at Tigerland.

What I do know is that alarm bells rang for me almost as soon as Terry Wallace was appointed. While Alastair Clarkson made the decision to cull any player who would not be around for the next Hawthorn premiership (note the certainty of the language), Wallace picked up one of those Hawks cast-offs, Mark Graham, on the premise that the young Tiger defenders needed an old head around.

Graham had a reasonable year in 2005, nothing terrible and nothing startling, just like his entire career at Hawthorn, and retired. Did the young Tigers gain anything from his presence? Well, it wasn’t evident to me. If Wallace had been fair dinkum about building a premiership team, he would have played a young bloke rather than Graham.

Development of a core of young players into solid senior players has been a problem at Richmond for almost 30 years. Unfortunately, the Wallace years have done nothing to fix the problem.

Wallace took the Richmond job around the time that Hawthorn and Collingwood decided to pour buckets of money into developing their young, listed players, essentially the first- to third-year players. Richmond, meanwhile, were chasing Nathan Brown and Kane Johnson. The folly of this approach was highlighted when Greg Miller flew to London to interrupt Dean Solomon’s holiday in an attempt to lure him to Punt Road.

Solomon’s coach at Essendon, Sheeds, asked the Tigers why they were making such a fuss over a half-back flanker. Sheeds, for all his tactical shenanigans, was right. Solomon was not someone to take the Tigers towards a premiership. The Tigers’ energy should have gone into developing youth rather than making hairy-chested recruiting swoops in the weeks after yet another wasted season.

In Wallace’s time, the best Richmond young footballer to develop has been Nathan Foley. Foley is an extremely self-motivated player. Right or wrong, it’s my perception is that he developed in spite of the club, not because of it.

To my mind, Kelvin Moore is the only Richmond player in recent years who’s developed through the concentrated efforts of the club. Wallace and his staff have done well to develop Moore, but even he is hardly a star. At best he’d be the second or third tall defender in a premiership team.

For several years I bleated about Wallace’s insistence on playing Richo in the forward line at the expense of developing an alternative forward structure. Wallace finally bit the bullet last year and moved Richo to a wing. Richo thrived, of course, as did the team. Jack Riewoldt looked like a player. Mitch Morton, who if I had my way would not have been recruited, looked like a handy foil. It’s the sort of thing that should have been going on from the start of the Wallace years.

Wallace can’t be blamed for every fault at the club. Tony Free was right to recommend that Greg Miller be the first to go, and I assume that Freezer’s never-ending review will come down heavily on the Tigers’ recruiting and development men. But Wallace, as the head coach, can take responsibility for a good portion of what’s gone on, and after four years it’s time for him to make way.

To my dismay, the talk this week has been of replacing him with Mick Malthouse. It’s very Richmond to want to turn back the clock to the glory days, and Malthouse did after all play in a Richmond premiership. He also coached West Coast to two premierships. But the last of those was in 1994 and I see no reason to appoint him for the 2010 season.

I hate the way Malthouse teams have thirteen back pockets and attack around the boundary. I hate his antics last week of trying to stare down an umpire. He’s now 55, an age when bullying tactics should start to lose their punch. Richmond don’t need a coach whose methods and tactics might lose their effectiveness in coming years.

We need to be like Hawthorn in 2004. We need to take a bold approach to building towards a premiership. We need to start by appointing a young, innovative coach, one who’s prepared to cut into the list rather than shore it up to win a few cheap games, one who’s going to introduce new tactics and new methods to take us as far from these blighted recent decades as possible.

I have no idea who this innovative young coach might be, and I’m certainly not going to rely on the new newspapers’ list of likely candidates. Even as a journalist, it’s never been clear to me the process in which lists of coaches-in-waiting are drawn up. I just know that Alistair Clarkson wasn’t on the list of likely Hawthorn coaches when newspaper drew up that list.

I will say one thing about a young turk who deserves to be considered for the Richmond role. Wayne Campbell thought about leaving Richmond for North Melbourne in 1998 because he didn’t like the way the Tigers were run. I like the way he disagreed with what he saw and spoke up about it; that’s the mark of a leader. I have a more sceptical view of loyalty in football than most, based around the fact that players have a short-lived career and must make the most of it, and, funny as it may sound, I thought Cambo should have gone to the Roos.

If he’d done so, he might have ticked a box that is now holding back his coaching ambitions. He might have played in a premiership. To that end, it’s worth remembering that Tom Hafey — a man who’s 108 years old and yet is being suggested by some fans as a possible coach — played 67 games for Richmond and not one of them was a final. He was just made of the right stuff. Alastair Clarkson never got near a premiership and he’s made of the right stuff. Cambo might be made of the right stuff as well.


  1. Damian O'Donnell says

    Daff, as a Geelong supporter of many years I think I have an insight to the “What’s wrong with my club” type questions. It seems that the Cats only made things right when they got the combination of loyal, passionate, hardworking Geelong people in ADMINISTRATION who were prepared to let the coaches coach, and determined, skilled, quality, NON-Geelong people in COACHING. This is critical. The new coaches should have no connection to the old Richmond culture. Wayne Campbell might be a terrific person, but he is a RICHMOND person – wrong as the coach. Malthouse also wrong. Agree with your idea of a “smokey”.

    Forget the “glory” days. That’s just old farts pumping themselves up.

    I also reckon Geelong was very smart in recruiting forwards who could play midfield (Chapman, Ablett, Stokes, Kelly,Johnson, Ling, Varcoe) not midfielders who had to learn to play forward. Subtle but critical.

  2. Perhaps, as Christopher Riordan suggested, Terry Wallace is just waiting for the Comedy Festival to end before the Tigers get serious. If not, there’s a man waiting in the wings up in Sydney who, by all reports, has a great rapport with (and the respect of) the players and the nous and vision to build a successful team. It’s 10 years since he ended his playing career with a premiership, long enough to put the required space between coach and players and yet short enough to understand what they are going through. John Longmire, your time has come.

  3. Pamela Sherpa says

    Richo typifies Richmond’s problems. Why isn’t he (the heart and soul of the club) captain for starters? And on the other hand why hasn’t he been made to sort out his kicking? Think about it. Would any other club tolerate such a wayward forward?

  4. Phil Dimitriadis says


    if Richmond appoint Malthouse it will set them back another 20 years. That ‘game plan’ and his antics are ennervating. I can’t wait to see the back of him at Collingwood.Yet the stubborn old prat won’t budge.

    The Tiges need a coach who was tough and skilful as a player. Why not bring Freezer in as coach…tough,skilled,respected.

  5. Daff,

    Two words – good governance

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