Jack Redden is gone, now Justin Leppitsch must follow

Josh Elliott Editor

By , Josh Elliott is a Roar Editor

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    I don’t like saying it’s time for a senior coach to go, especially one who has only been in the job for two years.

    However, while coaching an AFL side is an increasingly complex job, there are three key things a senior coach needs to do in order to have a successful football team.

    Firstly, they need to create a winning game plan. Easy to say, not so easy to do, but it’s an essential skill.

    Secondly, they need to be able to develop the players they have to fulfil their roles in that game plan.

    Justin Leppitsch hasn’t really had the chance to prove himself on either of these tasks just yet, prevented by injuries and a lack of talent on the Brisbane list.

    However, the third thing is the most important: getting a buy-in from your players – having their trust and belief that this team is worth devoting themselves to.

    Your players need to take ownership of the club.

    If Jack Redden requesting a trade earlier this week – citing his concerns with the club – proves anything, it’s that Leppitsch has failed in that third and most important task.

    There are problems at Brisbane. They lack players in the right areas and have struggled badly with injuries this year. They are a young team and they lack development.

    The issue here, however, isn’t that there are problems, because every club will have them. The issue here is that Leppitsch has not convinced his players to be a part of solving those problems.

    Redden, after all, will not be the only Lion to depart this season. They lost five players in the 2013 off season, another two in 2014, and they will almost certainly lose Redden, James Aish and Matthew Leuenberger this year.

    Dayne Zorko and Stefan Martin have also been weighing up their options, depending on who you get your gossip from.

    Even the best clubs lose a player or two each season, but when people are lining up to leave at this rate it shows that there’s a serious problem. And it’s not the Brisbane weather.

    It shows that the coach has lost – or never had – the ability to get his players all pulling in the same direction, to bring them together as a team, and make them believe that if they work towards a common goal, good times will come.

    The players believe the team is owned by someone else, so they haven’t become dedicated and devoted to it. It hasn’t become a part of who they are.

    When good players would rather skip off to another team than be a part of their current one, you’ve got a serious problem.

    Part of the issue is that the Lions are yet to disconnect from their 2001-03 premiership era, despite it being more than a decade ago. That ‘ownership’ of the team still belongs to the heroes of that generation, many of whom still hold important positions at the club.

    The appointments first of Michael Voss and then Leppitsch both struck me as attempts to cling to that era of success, in what was in both cases a difficult time for the club.

    Neither would have been offered the senior coaching position had they not been Brisbane premiership players.

    Appealing as it might be to have a favoured son return to the club, that kind of thinking can be poisonous. It is based around looking back, when instead clubs need to be looking forwards.

    Voss had essentially no coaching apprenticeship. Leppitsch was an assistant coach for six years but spent only three of those years outside Brisbane.

    They were Brisbane boys, and were appointed as Brisbane men, raised on Brisbane thinking. They lacked the outside influence needed to break the club out of its slump and bring it into a new, modern era.

    Consider Port Adelaide, who for years were coached by people from within the Port Adelaide structure. They found themselves at their lowest point in 2012, in the hands of club legend Matthew Primus.

    Primus’ demise saw Port Adelaide look outside its own heartland and install Ken Hinkley, a complete outsider, as their next senior coach. We have all seen the dramatic transformation that followed.

    It is time for Brisbane to do the same. The club can no longer rest on its laurels and look back on its glory days. It needs to change its focus and look at the future.

    The end of Leppitsch’s tenure at the club is the first step on that road.

    I feel for him, in a better situation he might well have made a red-hot go at it, but he has lost the players and as a senior coach that is the end of you.

    The next step is to appoint a coach from outside Brisbane’s premiership fraternity – either an experienced senior coach, or someone who currently assists at a successful club.

    It will be a hard road. It will get worse before it gets better. But it is well and truly past time for that old era to die, and a new one to be born. It is time for the players to own their football club.

    When they do, the Lions will roar again.

    Josh Elliott
    Josh Elliott

    Josh Elliott may be The Roar's Weekend Editor, but at heart he's just a rusted-on North Melbourne tragic with a penchant for pun headlines - and also abnormal alliteration, assuredly; assuming achievability. He once finished third in a hot chilli pie eating contest. You can follow him on Twitter @JoshElliott_29 and listen to him on The Roar's AFL Podcast.

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