As another season comes to a close, we can reflect on the inevitabilities that come with a year in football: important players getting injured, a controversial umpiring decision impacting a game, the Match Review Panel delivering a debatable result and a bad boy getting suspended or fined.
However, one thing we are yet to see this year is a senior coach in the firing line. There have been no mid-year sackings, no caretaker coaches (with Brendon Bolton and Mark Thompson the exceptions in different circumstances) and no speculation about which coach is fighting for his career this week or next week.
This is a rarity in football. So rare, in fact, that 2008 was the last year a senior coach was not sacked. Instead, we saw Leigh Matthews end his career with the Brisbane Lions because after three Premierships and coaching arguably the best team of the modern era for nine seasons, he “felt that the time was right.” The real question is, what makes this year different to previous years?
It could be the fact the bottom four teams on the ladder all have new coaches for 2014. Leigh Matthews may have been able to immediately convert wooden spooners into finals contenders in 1999, but the football community didn’t expect miracles from Melbourne, St Kilda and Brisbane this season.
As poorly as these clubs have been performing, it would be impractical to sack the senior coach after only one year with the team. Perhaps we will see them in the firing line next year if there is no visible improvement.
West Coast and Greater Western Sydney were also appointed new coaches in 2014, with their coaches retiring last season. Both West Coast and GWS have done enough to show they are improving on last year’s standards and keep the media hushed about the stability of Adam Simpson and Leon Cameron’s positions at the club.
Carlton have also had a very disappointing season. However, close games with genuine teams and the giant pay packet that Mick Malthouse has been taking home is enough to deter the new board and Mark LoGiudice from sacking Malthouse at season’s end. Again, however, little to no improvement next season will most likely result in Carlton supporters burning effigies of Mick in Lygon Street.
It would appear that this year is the calm before the storm, and next year we might see some serious repercussions. There are three coaches that have not been mentioned and could be in the firing line: Brendan McCartney, Brenton Sanderson and Nathan Buckley.
Brendan McCartney is in his third season coaching the Western Bulldogs and unfortunately he hasn’t been able to develop the team as far as one would hope for and expect, especially with the calibre of youngsters on the list. With a contract that takes him to the end of 2016, it will be interesting to see if McCartney will take the Dogs a step further next year, or if he will be looking for a new job.
Brenton Sanderson has had a tough job at Adelaide. The club are starting to really feel the impact of losing draft picks from the Tippett incident and they look nothing like the team who almost made the Grand Final in 2012. With a contract that takes Sanderson to the end of 2016, it is hard to see how he will retain his position if the team’s performance does not improve, especially with cross-town rivals Port Adelaide seeing so much success.
Nathan Buckley has not had a good year at Collingwood. Dishonourable performances and injuries certainly haven’t helped his case. However, since Buckley took the reigns from Malthouse in 2012, Collingwood have begun to spiral down the ladder. 2014 looks likely to be the first time Collingwood have not featured in finals since 2005, and if that trend continues it will be interesting to see if Collingwood’s favourite son remains at the club until the end of 2016.
Who knows what will happen next season? At this stage, we can only speculate. But one thing we can guarantee is that this season is an anomaly and we shouldn’t expect seasons to play out like this too often.