Every AFL finals series delivers narratives about the competing teams.
The removal of Rodney ”Rocket” Eade, coach of the Western Bulldogs for the previous seven years, by the board this week marks the fourth change in coach at a club going into next season.
So that’s a change of over 22 percent of the head coaches from 2011 to 2012, with four other coaches still waiting confirmation that they will have a job next year.
This is a huge turnover in a cut-throat industry where the combined wage bill for all AFL coaching staff is upwards of $25 million a year.
It should be a formality that Alastair Clarkson, John Worsfold, Brett Ratten and Michael Voss are all likely to re-sign with their clubs in the coming weeks, or at the conclusion of the season.
Whilst there are concerns over Matt Primus at Port Adelaide, the likelihood is that he will be there at the helm come round one 2012.
Ratten had the axe marked with “must win a final” early this year by the club board.
Similarly, Eade had his metaphoric guillotine marked pre-season in a Footy Show interview with club President David Smorgon, where he uttered the famous words of “pass mark in 2011” would be a grand final appearance.
The Bulldogs hierarchy, who chose not to continue with Rocket in their pursuit of that elusive second premiership, seemingly have not been asked a significant question: what differentiates the Western Bulldogs from Geelong in the management of their football department?
As is well documented, Geelong after a poor 2006 season, where they missed the finals, performed a thorough review of its football department. The review predominately surrounded whether to persist with seven-year coach Mark Thompson.
They decided to keep Thompson. Three grand finals and two premierships later, the Geelong mini era is envied by all other clubs.
That Geelong stuck with Thompson, who at that stage had a worse record than Eade with a coaching record of 48.75 percent to the end of 2006 with the Cats. Eade’s record at the Dogs is just above 54 percent.
The decision is exacerbated further by the recent success of Collinwood, where it took 10 years of the same head coach before a premiership was achieved.
From media reports Eade still had the ear of the players, still had the drive and still believed in the process. From the outside the club, talking to fans of the Dogs, the decision appeases possibly half the Bulldogs supports at best.
Were the Dogs correct in not offering an extension to Eade? Well, as with most decisions like this, of course, only time will tell. It’s a gutsy decision; let’s hope it’s not one they success starved Dogs will rue in years to come.