Collingwood carousel can learn from Leno

matthew_wood040 Roar Rookie

By matthew_wood040, matthew_wood040 is a Roar Rookie

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    Mick Malthouse was one of the AFL’s first ever career coaches. With nemesis – and Richmond back-pocket predecessor – Kevin Sheedy, he began leading teams to victory in the early days of AFL professionalism and continues doing so to this day.

    So then, are his recent strong implications that he’s not done coaching any surprise?

    After retiring from Richmond in 1983, he quickly took the reins of Footscray and led them to their highest finish in years – a tough preliminary final loss to the outstanding Jeans-era Hawks. After six years with the Bulldogs, he moved to Perth and the Eagles to instantly bring the then-new club into respectability.

    Two years later, the Eagles claimed their first premiership. A decade of success on the other coast followed before a highly-publicised move to Collingwood.

    Where within two years, he had led Collingwood to a grand final berth against competition powerhouse Brisbane. Last year, his eleventh in the black and white, brought their first cup for twenty years. It also brought the promise of his imminent demise as senior coach when club President Eddie McGuire negotiated a handover of power at the club to take place at the end of 2011.

    Malthouse’s former captain – and respected coaching prospect – Nathan Buckley will take power as senior coach while the boy from North Ballarat moves into a director of coaching role.

    It never felt like Mick was at ease with such a role, no matter how much he protested. He feels he is a head coach, rather than a coaching coordinator and very few people would argue.

    The situation became moderately more controversial when on last week’s episode of “The Footy Show”, he claimed he’d been performing this role for twenty-eight years and didn’t think he could just “turn the tap off”. The implication being that he would prefer to continue coaching Collingwood, but would probably pursue other AFL coaching opportunities once he handed control of the Pies to Buckley.

    While other such transitions of power have taken vogue around the league, this one involves three league icons and a departing coach who doesn’t feel like it’s his time to leave. Where Paul Roos had reached near burn-out stage and Leigh Matthews realised his time had passed before handing on to valued lieutenants, the competitive fire in Malthouse still smoulders.

    The situation is starkly reminiscent of the 2010 “The Tonight Show” affair. NBC’s “The Tonight Show”, formerly hosted by Johnny Carson, was the subject of much debate when the current host, Jay Leno, was replaced by Conan O’Brien.

    In 1999, to prevent O’Brien being poached by another network, NBC offered the redhead a ten-year contract to stay as host of “The Late Show”, whereupon at that contract’s conclusion he would succeed Leno as host of “The Tonight Show”. Leno agreed to the deal and was “bumped” earlier to the 10.30 EST slot.

    When ratings didn’t boom, NBC executives tried to move Leno back to 11.30 – with Conan and “The Tonight Show” airing just past midnight, disturbing the decades-long 11.35 run “The Tonight Show” franchise had made its own.

    The result: O’Brien left NBC for TNT with $33 million dollars, Leno took over “The Tonight Show” amidst a hurricane of criticism for knifing his former colleague and “The Tonight Show” and NBC late night brands were damaged by constant barbs traded between the comics.

    The parallels are quite apparent and McGuire must use all his considerable public relations skills to either move Malthouse aside quietly or impress upon him the damage he could inflict to Collingwood by remaining so open to the media.

    There will be no shortage of suitors – anywhere from Port Adelaide to Melbourne could be looking for a new boss and, should he be prepared to sit out a year from football, could well have his pick of almost any coaching position in the league.

    McGuire must also realise all that glitters is not necessarily golden. While James Hird has achieved success at Essendon, Michael Voss has had completely the opposite effect in Brisbane. Earmarked from his early twenties as a coach in waiting, Buckley has a wonderful pedigree – as had the Brisbane champion. All Malthouse has are the wins on the board.

    It was the same for NBC, who moved Leno into a less-prominent position only when results turned, to bring him back. With the support structures in place at Olympic Park such a dramatic turnaround in fortunes is unlikely.

    But it appears by enforcing change primarily to retain the services of Buckley, the Pies may be crossing bridges before they need to.

    Matthew Wood writes at Balanced Sports.

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    The Crowd Says (4)

    • July 20th 2011 @ 10:59am
      JD said | July 20th 2011 @ 10:59am | ! Report

      Interesting analogy there Matthew.

      At the time the contract was agreed to Malthouse was very lucky to get the extension. As Grant Thomas said the other night, he is experiencing an understandable pang of ‘buyer’s remorse’, give the way things have panned out. But I also think no one wants to win the flag any more than himself, and this uncertainty had started to distract him from that goal.

      It doesn’t matter what Ed, Mick, Geoff Walsh or Gary Pert says, there will be no end to the speculation because it has provided the media an enormous amount of fodder, and a majority of the media are aching for the arrangement (and CFC) to fail.

      The mistake that has been made is CFC failing to bed down the specifics of Mick’s job earlier, thus fuelling what until now was a fire that only kept the journo’s warm.

      It appears likely now Malthouse will do the job for a year and then either commit entirely to the media or take a coaching job elsewhere.

      (btw, I’m not sure that Hird’s tenure at Essendon could yet be classed as a ‘success’)

      • Roar Rookie

        July 21st 2011 @ 12:36am
        matthew_wood040 said | July 21st 2011 @ 12:36am | ! Report

        I completely agree. Only one thing can stop the speculation and that’s Malthouse coming out and saying flatly “I’ll pursue other opportunities on their merits” or “I’m done with coaching”. It sounds like he’s closer to the former. He probably felt he needed to tell his side of the story

        On your last point – surely anything Hird does/did this year would be viewed as a success for the Dons? Especially when considering the unpopular regard in which Knights was held, their results and the in-fighting around the club. The bandwagon is rolling again, memberships are peaking, they’re playing competitive (mostly) footy; success may be too definite a word, so let’s go with “progress”.

    • Roar Guru

      July 20th 2011 @ 11:07am
      Richard said | July 20th 2011 @ 11:07am | ! Report

      Good article. Well balanced and insightful. Until last Thursday’s interview on “The Footy Show” I was convinced that Mick Malthouse knew what he was doing. Now I’m not so sure. Two years ago he agreed to a contractual deal which aimed at ensuring the continual growth and development of his football club. It appeared to be a good arrangement all round, for the club and for the individuals concerned. They all signed off on it voluntarily after all. Now, Mick is showing all the signs of a man for whom time is catching up, who refuses to admit that he is getting on in age and that it’s time for a generational change. No hanging offence. Sooner or later all of us have to face it, some do it with more grace than others but it’s never easy. Ask Rupert Murdoch. I think Mick regrets the loss of his youth. But you know what? He has an opportunity to continue to contribute at Collingwood in a way in which few others can and which truly recognises his considerable ability and experience. He has the opportunity to build Collingwood Football Club into the sort of football factory which Hawthorn has been in the past. Through providing strong opportunity for talented players to learn and move into coaching at the end of their careers, he makes CFC an even more attractive work place for career minded and talented sportsman. He helps set up a regime which promises long term success at the club, the “Manchester United” he talked about when he first went there. Or he could do what he has said so many players tend to do, stay one year too long in his current job. If Mick can’t, in the end, take this step up, then I think it would be a great shame. At the moment I suspect he thinks he wants to retreat to his old club at Richmond, the only place, he said, where he “truly feels at home”. It just may be that he is seeking comfort for aging in a Richmond coaching role in 2013. I hope not. I hope this reticence to step forward boldly into a new future is only temporary and that he grasps this new opportunity at Collingwood with both hands. It would, after all,, be a truly fitting reward for a great football mind and for his outstanding contribution at Collingwood. And it would be the very best thing for the Collingwood Football Club.

      • July 21st 2011 @ 1:59pm
        GrantS said | July 21st 2011 @ 1:59pm | ! Report

        I got just past halfway Richard then my eyes gave out. How about using a paragraph or passage break now and then?

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