I will not be at any other club, in any role, next year.
I need to be clear on this, because by saying that I will not coach anywhere else, it seems I have inadvertently implied I may hold another position elsewhere. This is not the case, and I’ll tell you why.
I have a very strong bond with my Collingwood boys.
Yes I had a similar connection with my West Coast players for the decade I was with the Eagles, and so too with my Bulldog troops for the 6 years I was at Footscray, so yes I found it very difficult to leave those people behind when I departed those clubs.
But I’m older now, and with time and age nostalgia sets in. I’ve spent more years at Collingwood than anywhere else, so the thought of saying farewell to these lads, to compete against them, goes against every fibre of my being.
Another reason I object to being linked with any other club is that I can sympathize with how the present coaches of those teams are feeling. I have dealt with that kind of pressure before and I know also that their families wouldn’t be coping well with any hint of a take over.
I’m not that naïve to think that there won’t be a coaching shuffle, as in most years; it’s just not something I need to be involved with right now.
It sends a cold shiver through me when there is even a suggestion that I will replace a current coach.
For people who have never been in this position, it is highly stressful. To have your position threatened and your effort questioned, leaves a knot in your stomach and hits you right in the heart. Your family becomes defensive at the negative talk because they can’t deal with their anguish in any other way. The public scrutiny is horrendous and at times traumatic.
The final reason I won’t be switching clubs is that I have a contract with Collingwood for a further three years after this one, in a different role to my current position. I signed it in good faith that I could continue to help in developing the team and the club beyond my reign as senior coach.
The day-to-day role of Director of Coaching is still being determined, as it is a difficult position to define. Will it be like Mark Thompson’s assistant coaching role at Essendon? He sits in the box on match days and is involved in team selection and game planning.
Or will it have elements of the David Parkin approach with Wayne Brittain at Carlton, where he seemed to have a close mentoring association with his successor?
The answers here are, no. It won’t look like either of these roles.
The Collingwood role basically needs to justify its existence. It needs to help the club move forward. It should make use of my experience and knowledge, as 28 years of coaching practice has provided me with some tips, techniques and methods to pass on.
However, whatever the role becomes, it must provide the club with what it needs to be successful. Nathan Buckley needs to be comfortable and happy with it, as do the rest of the football department.
Most of all, the Collingwood players need to be happy.
For all the talk, the playing group has known and accepted from day one, that Nathan would be their coach at the end of this season. This isn’t the issue and has never been the issue, despite how it’s been interpreted in the media.
Do I still have a passion for coaching? Absolutely! However, attending the Celebration of Life of Allan Jeans at the MCG on Wednesday, I saw that the passion of a coach, that competitive spirit, never dies. It doesn’t leave you; it’s in your blood.
I now need to work out if that passion can extend to the role of Director of Coaching. Without passion I cannot function.
The thought of not coaching does sadden me, but it would still sadden me if the end came in ten years time, instead of this year. As a coach you always face the threat of your tenure ending abruptly. At least I have time to adjust to it.
Speaking and writing publicly about this issue was never high on my agenda, though the thought that constant media scrutiny and speculation could derail our season led me to face the situation head on. Call me naive, but I thought it would help the club to demonstrate that my loyalties aren’t shifting.
My sole focus right now is on the team, and reaching our full potential this season. We need to maximize our start. As of this weekend, we’ve played eight new players from last year’s grand final and I want to ensure they have the same capacity to work within the team structure as their more experienced teammates.
My only focus this weekend is on beating the Gold Coast Suns.
Beyond October my focus will be on my family. We have been on a wild ride for a long time and we all need a short breather.
When I signed the contract over two years ago, personal struggles at the time (a dying mother, a very sick grandchild and a grieving daughter,) gave me a new perspective on things and reminded me of what’s really important. Hearing the family of Allan Jeans speak at his funeral this week, once again reminded me of that.
Courtesy of The Australian.