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Who is Mark McVeigh? An insight into the Giants' new coach

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16th May, 2022
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With only two wins on the board approaching the halfway stage of the season, GWS have made some drastic changes with the appointing of former assistant coach Mark McVeigh to the head coach role.

It comes as the incumbent Leon Cameron announced his resignation as head coach of the club, after he stated that it was a ‘mutual decision between myself and the footy club’. As the hunt for a new head coach continues, with favourite Alastair Clarkson waiting eagerly in the wings, the little-known Mark McVeigh has quietly stepped in as the interim, with many wondering what he can do to change the fortunes of the Giants’ season.

But who is Mark McVeigh? At only 41 years of age, McVeigh is quite young for a senior AFL coaching position, with some pundits questioning if he has the experience, leadership skills and mental toughness to motivate a failing footy team. The age stats don’t really work in his favour either, as the average age of a premiership-winning coach in the last 30 years has been above 46. Of those 30 premierships, only nine have been won where a coach has been 42 years old or younger.

Yet McVeigh has taken it all in his stride, earlier stating as assistant coach that he ‘really wants to build on from last year’ when the Giants made it all the way to a semi-final, and to ‘give us a good opportunity in the top eight’.

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Whilst the Giants’ 2022 campaign continues to look grim as the season approaches the halfway point, McVeigh is quietly confident that an uptick of positive results can be still be attained in the coming games.

As an elite-level coach, McVeigh is still relatively new in his career, with most of his main experience coming through coaching under-age competitions. He was involved in coaching the Under-16 and Under-18 NSW/ACT Rams to National Championship titles, showcasing his talent for achieving winning results and seeing a team through an entire season.

Giants head coach Leon Cameron and assistant coach Mark McVeigh talk.

Giants head coach Leon Cameron and assistant coach Mark McVeigh talk. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/AFL Photos/via Getty Images )

In 2014, McVeigh was selected as head coach of the Giants’ Academy, a program which allowed him to scout, identify and develop local talent within the greater western Sydney region. Continued success in this role then elevated him to take charge of the Giants’ backline in 2015, where he held this coaching position for six more seasons before finally becoming midfield coach in 2021. Now that he is the interim head coach, McVeigh will be hoping that he can make this role his own as well.

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A quiet, determined and unruffled character, the Giants’ dismal performances so far have done little to dampen McVeigh’s resolve and steely confidence. Earlier in the season, he spoke candidly about how the preparation completed in pre-season have left the Giants ‘in a really good spot’ and that the early rounds will give his team a ‘great assessment of where they’re at’.

So far, the ‘assessment’ doesn’t seem promising; but McVeigh is no stranger to participating in the big dance, be it as a player or as a coach. He was among the coaching staff when the Giants played their inaugural grand final against a rampant Richmond in 2019.

It was ultimately a game to forget for GWS, but McVeigh’s ability to help strategise, motivate and push a relatively new club all the way to the grand final is a testament to his coaching nous and skill. In that season, the Giants never dropped below eighth on the ladder leading into the big dance.

McVeigh has a tall task ahead of him, and although he has the support of some former players and experts, not everyone is happy with the way he has previously coached the GWS midfield. One fan tweeted that McVeigh needs to ‘stop drafting mids’ whilst another echoed praise, stating that he ‘is a great human. Players hold him in the highest regard’.

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Josh Kelly of the Giants looks dejected
(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Regardless of opinion, those within the Giants’ think tank heavily endorse McVeigh’s coaching acumen. The AFL interviewed the outgoing Leon Cameron on McVeigh’s credentials to coach GWS for the remainder of the season, and the outgoing coach was full of praise.

When asked about McVeigh’s coaching prospects at his retirement press conference, Cameron replied that “Anything’s possible.”

“He’s had a great 8-9 year apprenticeship at our club. We’re in really good hands. If he decides to pursue that track, I endorse him 100 per cent.”

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McVeigh is no stranger to longevity and continued success in the game, having played for Essendon in a total of 232 games from 1999 to 2012, and kicking 107 goals. He was identified as a leader early on in his career, and quickly became one of Essendon’s main contributors, embedded immediately within the main leadership group and becoming an inspirational role model to the younger rookies coming through.

He will need to find that inspiration once more as he leads GWS out of a slew of repeated abysmal performances if they’re to find any hope of securing a berth in the top eight.

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