Draft watching has become an offseason pastime for avid AFL followers, with underage football coming under more scrutiny and analysis than ever before.
The Gold Coast Suns have completed the restructuring of the club’s coaching department, appointing Rhyce Shaw as their new head of development.
The former Collingwood father-son cum Sydney premiership defender has a wealth of player development experience from his time at the Swans post-retirement in 2015.
After the 2018 season, Shaw moved to North Melbourne as an assistant coach. He became caretaker coach after Brad Scott’s resignation after Round 10 and famously led the club to seven wins out of the remaining 12 games.
North Melbourne’s decision to appoint their interim coach started a trend in 2019 which saw David Teague and Brett Rutten at Carlton and St Kilda respectively also land full-time jobs after serving as interim coaches, but it didn’t work out for Shaw or North Melbourne.
In fact, given he was announced as full-time coach after only five games, even though he led the side to four wins in that time, the decision to sign him to a three-year deal seemed premature.
The tumultuous year in 2020, time in the hub and injuries to key players railroaded the Kangaroos’ season and Shaw took an indefinite leave after the final game to deal with the traumatic season with his family back in Melbourne.
The timing of Shaw’s promotion to head coach and the club’s transition to new CEO, Ben Amarfio, always seemed to be like a time bomb given that the club’s on- and off-field performance would be judged with these two leaders in sharp focus.
Nevertheless, Shaw’s parting with North Melbourne and reunion with longtime Sydney colleague, Stuart Dew, is a good news story. Mental health is gaining incremental understanding in the media, however, the comprehension of how mental illness can affect a person remains limited and narrow in scope.
Rhyce Shaw’s illness has not “gotten better suddenly”, he’s just managed it and acknowledged that his previous working environment was toxic for him.
A move away from the Melbourne bubble into the warm weather and sunshine of the Gold Coast with a mandate to develop the AFL’s youngest list is just the rehabilitation Shaw needs to again show his best traits and pass on the experience of his failures as well as successes.
The social media reaction to Shaw’s appointment has been mixed, but the majority of Suns fans are welcoming of the appointment and happy to see such a popular figure given another chance in the difficult circumstances.
There will always be the naysayers and trolls who mistake mental illness for a weakness, but Rhyce Shaw’s strength showed when he had been so resilient for so long and walked away when he couldn’t keep up the facade any longer.
Well done to Gold Coast for displaying empathy along with shrewd judgement in making such a bold and daring selection for this crucial role at the club.
Welcome to the Suns family, Rhyce Shaw.