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The AFL's most experienced coaches: How they stack up

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Roar Guru
6th October, 2018
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2290 Reads

The 2018 AFL season has come and gone, and in a twist ending every single senior coach managed to make it through the year without getting sacked.

It’s the first time in a long time we’ve seen this level of stability across the league, and with this in mind, plenty of questions are being asked of many of the league’s biggest names.

With so much to keep track of heading towards the new year, let’s take a look at the league’s most experienced leaders and how they compare.

1. Alastair Clarkson, Hawthorn

Debut season: 2005
Games coached: 329
Won/Lost/Drawn: 205/122/2
Premierships: 4 (2015, 2014, 2013, 2008)
Contracted until: 2019, in talks for a three year extension until 2022

Alastair Clarkson

(Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

A man who needs no introduction in the AFL community, he’s the longest-serving senior coach in the game and also the most successful. Clarkson has the job for as long as he wants it.

2. Ross Lyon, Fremantle and formerly St Kilda

Debut season: 2007
Games coached: 284
Won/Lost/Drawn: 163/116/5
Premierships: 0
Contracted until: 2020

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The second-most experienced senior coach at the top level, Lyon has seen a little bit of just about everything. His real strength comes from his tenure at multiple clubs. While many coaches at the top level have served as assistants at multiple teams, only one has served as a senior coach at two.

But if you’re a wagering man, I would suggest gambling on Ross Lyon to be the next senior coach to lose his job.

Lyon has taken two clubs to grand finals but has never won a premiership. Fremantle have been wallowing towards the bottom of the ladder for multiple seasons, and despite possibly inducing Melbourne’s Jesse Hogan as one big positive, they’re also losing quality players.

Lachie Neale departing the club for Brisbane is a huge indictment on the direction Fremantle is heading in. The prospects of another season with an injured Nat Fyfe should terrify Dockers fans.

Fremantle finished this season in 14th. Brisbane finished in 15th. Fremantle lost a staggering nine games by more than 50 points this season. Brisbane lost only two by the same margin.

Unless Lyon has a few cards hidden up his sleeve the wider AFL community isn’t privy too, it looks like it might be curtains for Ross at some point soon.

Ross Lyon Fremantle Dockers AFL 2017

(AAP Image/Julian Smith)

3. Damien Hardwick, Richmond

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Debut season: 2010
Games coached: 208
Won/Lost/Drawn: 113/93/2
Premierships: 2017
Contracted until: 2021

It’s hard to believe Richmond’s Damien Hardwick is even cracking the top ten on this list, let alone the top three. How time flies.

After guiding Richmond to premiership success after more than three decades in the wilderness, Hardwick’s job at one end of Punt Road is safe for many years to come.

Hardwick did what a long, long line of coaches have failed to do, and as a consequence the Tigers will reward him with whatever he demands for plenty of time to come.

Richmond may have missed out on going back-to-back this year after a heartbreaking preliminary final defeat at the hands of Collingwood, but they did win the minor premiership.

Add former Gold Coast co-captain Tom Lynch to the current line-up and Hardwick appears to be in as a good a stead as anyone to record a second premiership soon.

Coach of the Tigers, Damien Hardwick

(AAP Image/Julian Smith)

And for those out there curious as to how each coach is tracking, let’s wrap up by taking a look at every coach and when they first got started.

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Coach Club Debut Season
Stuart Dew Gold Coast 2017
Simon Goodwin Melbourne 2017
Chris Fagan Brisbane 2017
Don Pyke Adelaide 2016
Brendon Bolton Carlton 2016
John Worsfold Essendon 2016
Luke Beveridge Western Bulldogs 2015
Alan Richardson St Kilda 2014
Leon Cameron Greater Western Sydney 2014
Adam Simpson West Coast 2014
Ken Hinkley Port Adelaide 2013
Nathan Buckley Collingwood 2012
John Longmire Sydney 2011
Chris Scott Geelong 2011
Brad Scott North Melbourne 2010
Damien Hardwick Richmond 2010
Ross Lyon St Kilda, Fremantle 2007
Alastair Clarkson Hawthorn 2005