The Roar
The Roar

AFL
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Opinion

The early report card on 2020's new coaches

Autoplay in... 6 (Cancel)
Up Next No more videos! Playlist is empty -
Replay
Cancel
Next
Editor
31st August, 2020
113
2069 Reads

It’s been a long time since we’ve had five new coaches in a single AFL season, and their fortunes have varied from premiership dark horse to historically bad wooden spooners.

Barring objective negligence, nobody should be getting anywhere close to sacked after just one year in the job, but that doesn’t mean we can’t look at how this year’s rookie quintet have gone.

So, with just a few weeks to go this season, let’s see how all five have fared.

Matthew Nicks (Adelaide Crows)

18th, 0-13, 54.9%

What’s gone right
Adelaide Oval is still standing and we haven’t heard anything about their preseason activities.

It’s very hard to find positives for a side that is all but guaranteed to win the wooden spoon and will almost certainly finish the season winless.

This year is all about unearthing the young guns of the future and, so far, they looked to have found two gems in Chayce Jones and Fisher McAsey. Jones is in the top five amongst rising star eligible players for contested possessions, tackles and clearances. At just 20, he’ll only get better.

McAsey, on the other hand, hasn’t looked out of place as a key defender despite being just 19 years old.

Advertisement
Advertisement

What’s gone wrong
Just about everything else.

Virtually the only stats they aren’t dead last for, in terms of differential, are hitouts and free kicks. Yippee.

They average 46 fewer disposals than their opponents per game, 14 fewer inside 50s (nobody else is worse than -8), eight fewer tackles and ten fewer clearances.

Injuries have also gotten in the way a bit and, despite going youth-first, the Crows haven’t had a rising star nominee yet.

Of course, they also haven’t won a game. Writing anything else beyond this point would just be flogging a dead horse.

What needs to happen
A proper cleanout. The Crows are further away from contending than the Williamstown Seagulls, so it’s time to get aggressive, stock up on draft picks and endure an expansion-era GWS-style rebuild.

Grade
I am not suggesting for a second that Matthew Nicks’ job should be under any pressure, but you can’t be at this point in the season without winning a game and expect anything other than an F.

Matthew Nicks, Senior Coach of the Crows

Things can hardly have gone worse for Nicks and the Crows in 2020. (Photo by James Elsby/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Advertisement
Advertisement

David Teague (Carlton)

12th, 6-7, 97.1%

What’s gone right
The Blues have won six games for the first time since 2017 – and we’re only three quarters of the way through a shortened season – and are a chance of finishing at even-stevens or higher for the first time since 2013.

They’re still in the thick of the finals hunt (although the loss to Collingwood on the weekend hurts) and, for the first time in a long time, are clearly not amongst the competition’s worst teams.

David Teague has finally made the Blues worthy of respect and given them a great foundation to build off.

What’s gone wrong
If Carlton do miss the finals, which looks likely, they’ll have to look back at performances like Sunday’s and wonder what could have been. Their second-half flop against the Pies and their collapse after quarter-time against the Hawks in Round 9 will likely haunt them over the offseason.

I’ve seen some commentary over the fact only two of their six wins have been by more than ten points, but I don’t think there’s not much in it.

What has been a worry has been the extent they’ve been dominated aerially inside defensive 50. Charlie Dixon (seven marks inside 50), Jack Riewoldt (five), Jack Gunston, Josh Kennedy (three each) and the entire St Kilda forward line all had their way with Carlton’s defence at times this year.

Advertisement
Advertisement

What needs to happen
Carlton will have their eye on a few trade targets in the offseason, namely Zac Williams and Tom Papley. Picking up either, or addressing their weaknesses on the outside of the midfield by other means, will go a long way to putting them in finals contention next season.

Grade
Getting to the finals would improve this to an A, but so far Teague and co. deserve plaudits for their 2020 efforts. B

David Teague

David Teague’s Blues have picked up where they left off in 2020. (Photo by Daniel Carson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Justin Longmuir (Fremantle)

14th, 5-8, 89.1%

What’s gone right
Like Teague at Carlton, Justin Longmuir has got Freo deserving the respect of the competition once more after some absolute basket-case years in the latter half of Ross Lyon’s tenure.

He’s got Matt Taberner finally starting to deliver on his immense promise, which is even more impressive considering the limited contribution of Rory Lobb and Jesse Hogan’s absence.

Finals may be out of the question, but their 5-8 record is somewhat misleading too – they’ve been a lot better than that. Their 4-0 start could have easily been 3-1 and, when you factor in the unlucky nature of their loss to Carlton, they could be as good as 9-4 with some better play in the late stages.

Advertisement
Advertisement

What’s gone wrong
It was a problem that plagued Lyon forever, so it’d be harsh to criticise Longmuir for not fixing it in less than a year, but the Dockers still can’t score.

I know we’re in a shortened season, but Freo have just 647 points to their name through 13 matches – second-worst in the AFL. They’ve reached full time with a score of 50 or less on six occasions in 2020 – that simply won’t cut it no matter how long quarters are.

It’s not entirely on the forwards – Freo are 17th for inside 50s per game – but they simply won’t be a contender until they get that part of their game right.

What needs to happen
With only two players over the age of 30 (with one of them being a 35-year-old playing like he’s 25), Fremantle have enviously few crucial list decisions to make in the offseason. With plenty of games being pumped into the 24-and-under bracket, staying the course from here should see them back in the finals race either this year or next.

Grade
I don’t think the Dockers were a finals-quality side this season, but the fact they’re out of the race already is not reflective of how they’ve played this season. I’ll generously award them a B-.

Dockers coach Justin Longmuir talks to his team

Longmuir has had a solid debut season. (Photo by Jono Searle/AFL Photos/via Getty Images )

Rhyce Shaw (North Melbourne)

17th, 3-11, 76.3%

Advertisement
Advertisement

What’s gone right
North shot out of the blocks with a 2-0 start, notching an impressive come-from-behind win over the Saints before shocking everyone by knocking off the Giants at home. What’s that? I have to write more?

Some of North’s younger brigade have stepped up in a big way this season, including Jy Simpkin and Tarryn Thomas (before injury struck), while some of the prime-aged candidates have either enjoyed career-best form (Trent Dumont, Jed Anderson) or a complete career revival (Luke McDonald).

Todd Goldstein’s renaissance has been great to watch too.

What’s gone wrong
Since Round 2, the Kangaroos have only sung the song once and that was after they emphatically stole the lollipop out of baby Adelaide’s hands.

Thomas’ season-ending injury was a huge blow. He wouldn’t have made them a contender, but his development was cause for great optimism.

North, whose list is of almost identical age and experience to Richmond’s, have simply been exposed as lacking the class to compete and need to go back to the drawing board.

They also need to cop some heat over some embarrassing injury management, with both Jack Ziebell and Ben Cunnington withdrawing in the first quarter of their returns from injury with the exact same ailment.

What needs to happen
In some ways, this was the recession North had to have. They kicked the tires under the last few years of Brad Scott’s regime for no meaningful progress and, now that a new coach hasn’t waved his wand, they finally have to buckle up and clean things out properly.

Advertisement
Advertisement

I worry their journey is just beginning, but at least it is beginning.

Also, please lose the pinstripes from your jumper next season.

Grade
Given Shaw only joined the club in any capacity last season, he can’t really be held responsible for the years of inconsistent list management that have finally manifested in a poor 2020. He does, however, need to be marked down for some awful injury management and, therefore, gets a C-.

Rhyce Shaw, Senior Coach of the Kangaroos celebrates his team win

Rhyce Shaw, in happier times. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

Brett Ratten (St Kilda)

7th, 8-6, 113.3%

What’s gone right
For the most part, St Kilda’s bold recruitment strategy over the offseason has paid off. Dan Butler has been the bargain of the year, while Brad Hill, Zak Jones, Paddy Ryder and Dougal Howard have all contributed to what’s been a strong rise up the ladder.

People have been quick to forget they finished 14th with nine wins last season – the fact they’re in the thick of the race despite being eight years removed from their last finals appearance is a great success no matter how you spin it.

Advertisement
Advertisement

What’s gone wrong
Squandered leads.

If the Saints do end up missing the finals from here, which is suddenly very possible, people will incorrectly point to last week’s three-point loss to Melbourne as the culprit. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

If they fall short, St Kilda will have their Round 1 loss to North Melbourne and Round 6 loss to Fremantle to blame. They held a 29-point lead over the Kangaroos at halftime before scoring just one goal in the second half to fall by two.

Then, against the then-bottom four Dockers, they scored just one goal across the second and third quarters to see a 30-point lead at the first break turn into a six-point loss.

St Kilda clearly have designs on going places and that stuff just can’t be happening.

What needs to happen
There are few obvious holes in the list right now, with both key positions, the ruck, small forward and outside midfield spots covered. They could probably use another piece in the midfield – maybe a Crouch brother? – but general improvement across the board should be enough to make them a contender soon.

Grade
If Ratten gets the Saints to ‘September’, he deserves a mention in the coach of the year award. For now, he’s one of the frontrunners, but he needs to get it right over the next few weeks. A-

St Kilda coach Brett Ratten looks on

Brett Ratten will be hoping for a stronger finish to the season. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Advertisement
Advertisement