Saturday, April 25 is not only the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landing by the original ANZACs, it is also the day that sees Carlton coach, Mick Malthouse coach his 714th senior game of VFL/AFL football, a truly remarkable feat.
For Malthouse, it is another step in a football journey that began more than 40 years ago at the North Ballarat Football Club, that saw him make it in the big league with St. Kilda, and later achieve the ultimate in team success as a member of the 1980 Richmond premiership side.
From 1972 to 1983, Malthouse graced the grounds of the VFL in 174 games but he elected to hang up the boots at the age of just 29.
However, the next chapter of Malthouse’s football life wasn’t to be far away, as the very next year in 1984, he took over the coaching reigns at Footscray for the first of what will become 714 games as a league coach this Saturday.
However, the match against Malthouse’s old side, St. Kilda according to the AFL’s offical statistics has him only tying the all-time coaching record of 714 games, by that of legendary Collingwood coach, Jock McHale.
So, what’s the issue you say?
Well, if we step back in time nearly 85 years to the time of Phar Lap and Don Bradman, we see that the Grand Final of 1930 was held on October 11th between Collingwood and Geelong.
The Cats had defeated the Magpies the previous week, but under the finals system in place at that time, Collingwood as minor premier had the right to challenge, therefore the match to decide the 1930 premiership would become the Grand Final.
Unfortunately for coach McHale, on the big day he was ill and had to be confined to bed as his beloved Magpies took the field of battle against Geelong.
At half time, Collingwood was in a world of hurt, trailing Geelong by 21 points, having only kicked three goals in the opening half of action.
Collingwood needed a spark, and thanks to the efforts of stand in coach Bob Rush, they found it as reported in ‘The Argus’ of October 13, 1930, “Rush took the place of Jock McHale, and in an inspiring speech urged the team to rise to the occasion. The men, feeling that an extra effort was required, made it, and overwhelmed the opposition and won.”
Of course the premiership win for Collingwood was the clubs fourth in succession, a record which still to this day remaines unequalled in VFL/AFL history.
So, just who was Bob Rush?
Rush played 143 games for Collingwood in the back pocket at the beginning of last century, he was also considered a fine defender with excellent pace and agility and tasted premiership glory as a player in 1902 and again in 1903.
Upon his retirement Rush served as club treasurer, a position which he held remarkably until 1950, he also was delegate to the VFL for many years and was president of the Australian National Football Council.
So, if Rush filled in as coach on Grand Final day, and McHale was at home recovering from his illness, the question needs to be asked, why has McHale been credited as coaching Collingwood to the 1930 premiership?
Its not as if caretaker coaches haven’t ever been used before, just last year Alastair Clarkson had to stand down from his duties as Hawthorn coach to recover from a severe bout of Guillain-Barre Syndrome.
As a result, Brendon Bolton acted as senior coach for five weeks and collected five wins.
Now this happened mid-season, but should Bolton have been acting as senior coach on Grand Final day last year, he would have been the 2014 premiership coach as a result of Hawthorn’s win, not Clarkson.
So, why is the case of Rush doing the same and acting as coach for McHale any different?
The fact is Jock McHale, legendary coach as he as was should not be credited as Collingwood’s coach for the game he did not attend or coach at, that being the 1930 Grand Final.
Because of this, his record of VFL/AFL games coached should be revised to 713, to therefore allow Mick Malthouse to accurately break the coaching record against St. Kilda this ANZAC day.
For anything else to occur is just fiddling with history and accuracy for the sake of correcting a past error.
The league may well prefer Malthouse to break the record in Melbourne, coaching against Collingwood.
However, the fact remains the misreading of the correct numbers and celebrating the record incorrectly does leaves a stain on what should be a momentous occasion for both the AFL and Mick Malthouse and should be rectified as soon as possible.