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Who would win an AFL 'Coach of the Month' award for March?

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Roar Rookie
6th April, 2023
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The English Premier League “Manager of the Month Award” sits alongside the “Player of the Month Award” and is selected from six nominees by a panel of experts.

In the Premier League, Arsenal are looking set to win the title over favourites Manchester City and this is reflected by the Gunners’ manager, Mikel Arteta receiving four Manager of the Month awards so far.

In the AFL three returning former coaches, Alastair Clarkson at North Melbourne, Ross Lyon back at St. Kilda and Brad Scott at Essendon, have all had excellent starts to the season.

Meanwhile Craig McRae, coach of Collingwood, is suffering no second-year blues and Melbourne and Sydney both sit comfortably at the top end of the ladder, again.

In a similar style to the EPL six high-performing coaches will be nominated and you can decide the winner – or nominate a coach who has missed the cut.

Adelaide: Matthew Nicks, 1 win, 2 losses, 11th on the ladder 94.3 per cent

Nicks, who is now in his fourth season as coach at Adelaide, has improved incrementally each season: three wins in 2020; seven wins in 2021; and eight wins in 2022.

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The Crows play a good attacking brand of football, and it is clear the players know their roles and responsibilities. If it wasn’t for inaccuracy in front of goal, they could be three and zero.

Nicks encourages his players to take the game on, backing their natural talent. This has been exemplified by new recruit Izak Rankine.

The one criticism that could be levelled at Nicks is playing Elliot Himmelberg over Riley Thilthorpe. Nicks brought Thilthorpe into the starting 22 against Port Adelaide in round 3, with great effect as he kicked five goals in an important win.

Perhaps leaving Thilthorpe out of the round 1 team was the motivation he needed. We’ve seen Thilthorpe kick five goals before, he did it on debut against Hawthorn. Perhaps this could be the start of consistent performances.

St. Kilda: Ross Lyon, 3 wins, 0 losses, 1st on the ladder 150.3 per cent

Lyon has been welcomed back to Moorabbin with open arms. He may not have left under the best circumstances at the end of the 2011 season when he departed to Fremantle.

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However, he did provide plenty of highs to Saints fans when he was there the first time around. He’s bringing those feel-good vibes back. Not since Lyon was coach of the Saints in 2010, have they started a campaign three-zero.

Ross Lyon (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

Furthermore, Lyon has had to do it all under an injury cloud particularly in the forward half of the ground. Big outs include tall forwards Max King and Tim Membrey.

This hasn’t fazed Lyon as injury provides opportunity for others. Young forwards, the likes of Mitch Owens, Mattaes Phillipou and Anthony Caminiti, are eagerly seizing this opportunity.

The coach’s role is to get the players mentally prepared for gameday, and Lyon has been doing that. The Saints started fast against the Bulldogs (four goals to none at quarter time), and Essendon (five goals to one at the first break).

Melbourne: Simon Goodwin, 2 wins, 1 loss 4th on the ladder 136.8 per cent

Melbourne struggled in the back half of season 2022, especially ahead of the ball, lacking synergy between the forwards and midfielders.

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This all came to a head in the 2022 finals series against both Sydney and Brisbane. Melbourne had more inside 50s on both occasions yet could not get a winning score on the board, going out in straight sets. The early signs in 2023 suggest an increased effectiveness going inside their attacking 50.

A criticism at times last year was their inability to close out games. In two of the first three rounds, they have put the Western Bulldogs and Sydney, two finalists from last season to the sword in brutal fashion, beating them both by 50 points.

Also, Goodwin has introduced some new players to the team from last year. Judd McVee who was part of Melbourne’s VFL premiership last season, made his debut in round 1 and has been a solid contributor in Melbourne’s backline.

Kade Chandler, now in his fourth season at Melbourne, has been promoted to the senior list and is so far repaying the faith Goodwin has shown him.

Collingwood: Craig McRae, 3 wins, 0 losses, 2nd on the ladder 149.5 per cent

McRae has been a breath of fresh air since joining Collingwood at the beginning of the 2022 season. He handles the media well, he has a calm demeanour and knows what he wants his players to deliver.

The players are executing what he’s asking of them. They have a strong defensive system and an ability to win the ball back from the opposition.

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Once Collingwood are in possession, it’s then a chain of handpasses till a player is out in space who can deliver the ball to their forwards.

Collingwood have a very dynamic forward line with their midfielders often contributing to the scoreline. McRae has instilled selfless behaviour in Collingwood players – it doesn’t matter who kicks the goals, as long as Collingwood do.

(Photo by Mike Owen/Getty Images)

Collingwood have 11 players who have kicked three or more goals in the first three rounds, the most of any team.

Essendon: Brad Scott, 2 wins, 1 loss, 6th on the ladder, 129.1 per cent

Scott has returned to coaching after a hiatus of 3 years following nine and half seasons at North Melbourne. That run ended midway through 2019, during which he led the Roos to two preliminary finals.

Similar to Lyon at St. Kilda, Scott has been without his main forward Peter Wright for the start of the season. Scott has made it work, by employing Kyle Langford in the backline throughout the pre-season, he played him up forward against Gold Coast to great effect, Langford kicking a career high five goals.

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Scott has also been strong in his selection integrity, opting not to rush livewire forward Jake Stringer straight back into the team in round 2.

Carlton: Michael Voss, 2 wins, 1 draw, 0 losses, 3rd on the ladder 108.8 per cent

Voss, whose team narrowly missed out on finals in 2022 by a points difference of just 0.6 per cent, is keen to rectify that in the 2023 season.

Carlton has made a solid start to the season; they’ve improved defensively from last season and in round 1 kept Richmond to just 58 points from 66 forward 50 entries.

Carlton, although conceding the last-minute goal for a draw against Richmond have become better at managing close games. Against Geelong in round 2, they were up by eight points late in the game, forward Charlie Curnow went behind the ball to provide another intercept marking option, and fellow key forward Harry McKay went higher up the ground to provide the bail out kicks, both performed their roles very well.
The pressure on Michael Voss will come closer to finals time, at the moment he’s doing what’s required.

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