Coaching is a tough game, in which longevity is rare. The only thing that has ever bought a coach time in footy history, is success. More specifically, premierships.
History has shown that coaching the same AFL side for ten successive seasons has been a privilege bestowed on only the finest coaches in the game. Of the current crop, just one has coached his club for longer; Alastair Clarkson. Few would argue that his contribution to the game as a coach has not been immense. The architect behind four modern premiership flags means that he will go down as one of Hawthorn’s greatest ever coaching icons.
As will Damien Hardwick at Richmond. A Clarkson disciple, Hardwick’s success is dwarfed by that of his master, but remains truly remarkable. Hardwick produced one of the great coaching performances the game has ever seen in 2017, the year the Tigers broke a thirty-seven year premiership drought. He was at the forefront of Richmond’s cultural transformation that rebooted Richmond into an on-field powerhouse from a seemingly never-ending butt of ninth-place jokes. Now in his tenth year at the helm, the Tigers face significant early season injury challenges, but have the utmost faith in Hardwick to again push Richmond into premiership contention.
The third and final current coach to crack the ten-year barrier is Brad Scott. An outlier in the extreme. In the 123-year history of the VFL/AFL competition, just one other coach has coached the same club for ten or more seasons in a row without delivering a premiership. That other is Neale Daniher at Melbourne, who resigned half-way through his tenth season. However, Daniher’s coaching career, while without a flag, was still successful with the Demons. He coached the club to a Grand Final, a dozen finals appearances and is regarded as their finest coach since Norm Smith. That’s a pretty good CV.
It’s a CV in which Brad Scott does not possess. North Melbourne under Brad Scott have been underwhelming and mediocre at best. Not only has Brad Scott never coached the Kangaroos to a flag or Grand Final, they have not really been close to premiership contenders. While, Scott supporters will point to the back to back preliminary finals appearances in 2014 and 2015, they only finished sixth and eighth in the Home and Away season in 2014 and 2015 respectively. Furthermore, in the 2014 preliminary final against Sydney, they barely showed up, losing by 71-points to a side that would be hammered by Hawthorn the following week.
Besides the token prelim years, it’s been a pretty barren run for Brad Scott. They have only made the finals on two other occasions, where they were knocked out without giving a whimper on both occasions. In 2012, it was a 96-point defeat at the hands of West Coast and a 62-point smashing carried out by Adelaide in 2016. There have been no finals at all since then.
So far this season, North Melbourne’s position again looks dire. They were completely uncompetitive in Round One and miraculously made Fremantle (who lost to Gold Coast last week) look like an all-star lineup, losing by 82 points.
In Round Two, they lost again to Brisbane on their home deck. The Lions look like a much improved team in 2019, but the reality is they were a bottom four team last year. A loss today to Hawthorn, will mean that North Melbourne go 0-3, a position that history tells us is often irrecoverable. You would suggest a loss would mean North Melbourne fans would be bracing themselves for another poor season. Not because it’s Round Three but because they do not even remotely look like finals contenders.
If that’s the case surely the blowtorch must be turned onto Brad Scott, who remarkably is contracted again for season 2020. I think John Worsfold should expect a box of chocolates and some nice flowers on his front doorstep, because how Brad Scott has escaped any significant scrutiny is baffling. Whichever way you want to spin it, right now Brad Scott is a long-term unsuccessful coach of a currently unsuccessful AFL team. That is a dangerous place to be.
However, North Melbourne’s loyalty to Brad Scott has been strong. They stood by him when he caused the club to be fined $50,000 after making unsubstantiated claims questioning the integrity of umpires in a press-conference in 2016. Scott was also personally fined $30,000. Scott’s conduct with the media has only come under fire, as he has faced concerning claims that he reportedly threatened journalist Damian Barrett.
It’s Round Three and a season already hangs in the balance tomorrow the MCG. But if today’s performance sees the Kangaroos’ season go down in flames, the same may happen to a long-standing coaching career.
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