Coaches likely to stay for 2013
Unlike last year, there should not be another coaching merry-go-round at the end of this AFL season.
Only Port Adelaide, who parted ways with Matthew Primus earlier this month, are currently on the search for a new coach.
This year five coaches took the reins for the first time with varying success – Mark Neeld at Melbourne, Brendan McCartney at the Western Bulldogs, Scott Watters at St. Kilda, Brenton Sanderson at Adelaide and Nathan Buckley at Collingwood.
Buckley inherited last year’s grand finalists from Mick Malthouse through a controversial succession plan. He currently has the Magpies sitting in third place on the ladder, only behind the top placed Sydney Swans on percentage.
Neeld and McCartney came from successful programs at Collingwood and Geelong before taking over as senior coaches this year. Both have had a tough introduction during their debut season.
The Demons languish near the bottom of the table and have had a series of issues throughout the year. Neeld pledged at the beginning of his tenure that he wanted Melbourne to be the hardest team to compete against in the AFL.
The Demons have managed only three wins this season – their best, a shock, six-point win over Essendon in Round 10.
McCartney’s Bulldogs haven’t been much better, with only four wins to sit one place above Melbourne in 15th position.
Sanderson, who also came from Geelong, has been the standout coach of the bunch. The Crows finished 14th last year and now sit in-between Collingwood and Sydney in second spot on the ladder. Adelaide are a genuine premiership threat and are poised to finish the season with a double chance and home ground advantage.
Watters’ first season at St. Kilda has been serviceable to say the least. After the defection of Ross Lyon to Fremantle, many believed the Saints premiership window had closed and the club was destined for a rebuilding phase.
Watters has been a breath of fresh air at St. Kilda and has been instrumental in keeping the Saints in finals contention. He was a key member of the Collingwood coaching team that helped the club defeat St. Kilda in the 2010 grand final and prior had led Subiaco in the WAFL to three premierships.
Although the premiership window may have closed – or be just about shut – for the Saints, their rebuilding phase shouldn’t take them to depths of the AFL with Watters in charge and committed to developing his young talent while still getting the most from veterans such as Reiwolt, Goodard, Hayes and Montanga.
While McCartney and Neeld haven’t enjoyed early success, it is doubtful either would be replaced after only one year in the job.
Carlton’s Brett Ratten has his future in doubt after a disastrous year, despite still having a year to run on his contract.
Before the season commenced, Ratten stated the Blues would be looking for a top-four finish and, with Carlton sitting outside the top eight with only three rounds remaining, the Blues will fall well short of expectations.
Commentators and fans have been divided on his performance throughout the year.
Mick Malthouse – a rumoured contender for the Carlton job should it become vacant – had to publicly declare mid-season he wouldn’t take over from Ratten in 2012.
Along with Malthouse, Swans premiership coach Paul Roos has also had his named linked with Carlton, but according to reports is unlikely to take up a senior role in 2013.
Carlton would be wise to think long and hard about removing Ratten, who clearly has the backing of his playing group.
There are not too many experienced coaches available to replace him. The most notables are Port Adelaide premiership coach Mark Williams (now as assistant at Greater Western Sydney) and current Collingwood strategist Rodney Eade – who led the Bulldogs to three consecutive preliminary finals before being axed last season.
Eade is the early favourite for the Port Adelaide job.
Also available is two-time Geelong premiership coach and current Essendon assistant Mark Thompson. However, like Roos, Thompson doesn’t appear likely to step back into senior coaching any time soon.
With their premiership window well and truly open, the Blues would take a huge risk on an untried AFL assistant.
Ratten should be given the opportunity to turn things around next season at Carlton.