No AFL coach has been presented with such disadvantages in his second year as Brenton Sanderson.
Mark Neeld is the possible exception here, although he wasn’t burdened with any draft or trade penalties.
Imagine, in your second year as an AFL coach, having finally hit the big time, losing your highest paid and best key forward (for zero compensation), your first two picks in the ever-important national draft, the bloke who hired you for six months, and your most senior assistant for the first 16 rounds of the subsequent season.
Furthermore, your ‘barometer’ and other power forward goes down four games into the new season (not to return for 12 months or more).
Most pundits and journalists seem surprised that Adelaide has failed to live up to the lofty expectations created by a stellar 2012 AFL premiership season – where the Crows improved on their 2011 season by 10-11 wins and about the same number of positions on the premiership ladder.
When you look at these factors however it is far from a surprise.
Think about it: two key forwards gone, assistant coach gone, four first and second round draft picks gone – all for nothing.
Imagine if you will: Hawthorn loses Lance Franklin and Jarryd Roughead within a few months, or Collingwood misses out on two first round draft picks, such as Ben Kennedy and Brodie Grundy (2012 AFL Draft).
How would those clubs, or their coaches, react? It may be better, it may be worse, but it would be really tough.
One may even argue that the Adelaide team has done quite well this season winning five games of 12 – with three losses being within two goals and two of those coming against definite top four finishers in 2013.
Sure, the midfield is down and they’ve had a couple of blowouts, but boy, didn’t they ‘go up’ in 2012 (with the identical group from 2011)?
It was always going to be tough to stay up there – especially in the increasingly professional AFL environment when any ‘spike’ in form from an up-and-coming young team is obsessively and painstakingly analysed by competitors.
Hats off to Geelong (in particular) who almost always seem to overcome such heat – a team from which, interestingly, Sanderson learnt the bulk of his trade – both as a player and coach.
Now, I’m not saying that Adelaide didn’t deserve these penalties (apart from the Dean Bailey penalty which this club had nothing to do with whatsoever) – they were weirdly naïve and stupid in the Tippett contract dealings.
What I am saying however is that Sanderson didn’t deserve this.
To his credit, he has never played the ‘woe is me’ line, and he never whinges (unlike some other AFL coaches, particularly those more advanced in years than their counterparts).
He cops it all on his undeserved chin, and keeps the faith at all times – constantly reiterating the pride and confidence he has in his team and even his club.
Good luck Sando. I hope you get what you deserve one day as an AFL coach.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article originally stated that Brenton Sanderson was in his first season as coach of the Adelaide Football Club. This has since been updated to correctly reflect that Sanderson is now in his second season as coach of the Crows.