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Smart move or risky gamble? Clubs extending coaches' contracts too early could dig themselves into a deeper hole

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22nd March, 2024

Is it a must for clubs to commit to their current coach early to release the weight off their shoulders so they can focus on winning games?

After the announcement of two senior coaches re-signing this week, Matthew Nicks who re-signed with the Adelaide Crows for another two years and Fremantle’s Justin Longmuir for a further year, it now seems to be portrayed as cruel if they were made to wait for a decision at the end of the season.

At the end of the day, it is and will always be a wins-and-losses industry and if you assess these two coaches on the scale there is no way you would re-sign them at this current stage of the year on what they have done.

Fremantle’s decision to re-sign Longmuir is a risk for a team that has only played finals once in eight seasons, it seems like a nice decision from a nice football club, so why not wait?

It certainly worked for Port Adelaide last season under Ken Hinkley who was coming out of contract at the end of the 2023 season. They won 13 games on the bounce proving it can work.

The Power were booted out of the 2023 finals series in straight sets after Hinkley was re-signed in August emphasising the ever-changing nature of the game.

As harsh as it is, was it time for the Power to get a new voice at Alberton?


Creating a new voice did wonders for the Collingwood Football Club adding Craig McCrae after a lengthy stint of nine and a half seasons with Nathan Buckley.

The fresh vibrance of process-driven footy parachuted them to a premiership.

Let’s not forget about Adam Kingsley taking over from Leon Cameron at the Giants where in 2024 the Giants look invigorated to the point where they’re looking at premiership favouritism.

Coming into his fifth year at Freo, it is a huge season for Longmuir. Under his watch, the club has played in a finals series just once, in 2022.

Longmuir’s game style throughout his tenure has been criticised for their slow, lethargic ball use coming out of their defensive 50.

Last year the Dockers were ranked 13th in the competition with the footy, 13th without the footy, 14th for post clearance and sixth in clearances exposing their one-trick pony game style.

Dockers coach Justin Longmuir talks to his team

Justin Longmuir. (Photo by Jono Searle/AFL Photos/via Getty Images )

The Dockers are the second youngest team in the competition by average games in 55.4 and they were ranked the fourth youngest team with an average age of just 23.9 – illustrating the difficulty of the fight for a spot in September that the club would be hoping for.

Similarly, the Adelaide Crows are ranked the fourth youngest in the competition for average games at 60.2 and fifth youngest for average age at 24.1.

Yes, Nicks’ linear progress of 18th, 15th, 14th and last year’s 10th place is a great sign for the Crows but the big leap to finals potentially will prove tough given their inexperience.

But linear improvement doesn’t always last.

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Alan Richardson’s tenure at the Saints began with 18th, 14th, and ninth in 2016 followed by 11th and 16th.

If the Crows struggle to make the finals in Nicks’ fifth season the pressure gauge will intensify even with the fact that he is contracted til the end of 2026.

What do contracts mean these days anyway? Brett Ratten was sacked by St Kilda six months after the club re-signed him for a further two years.

The pressure on Luke Beveridge will mount if his Bulldogs don’t make September even when contracted for another year.

I’m not saying to sack these coaches but why are clubs so opposed to waiting?

Ultimately, it seems like successful clubs are the ones comfortable making the tough decisions.