People point the finger at coaches too easily these days. New coaches are usually told to pack up their bags within three years of services when they still have plenty to offer.
Ken Hinkley is the new man in charge of Port Adelaide with a four-year contract to his name. If, after two and a half years Port Adelaide is in the same position, some people will be calling for his head. This needs to be avoided.
For a club to know the full capabilities of its playing list, a club needs to commit to a coach for at least four to five years. The team needs to be patient with its coach; if they are not, they risk having to start the whole process again.
But let’s be honest, not every coach is going to win a premiership or even be able to make the top four within five years.
A strong culture needs to be shown, and that goes way beyond just on-field success. If they can find good morale, income and team management, there is no reason as to why a coach should be sacked.
After one year of coaching, the full game style is not ingrained in a players head. The players have just adapted to the new style and are still trying to work it out. Players need time to adjust to the coach; some players and coaches do not get along and that is a fact of life. However, coaches and players need to learn to trust each other. Trust here is a big, big word.
They need time to learn about each other and one to two years is not enough. They are not with each other 24/7, but they do spend a lot of time together.
It is with this, that five years is ideal. In five years, so much can happen at that club, if it is done successfully.
St Kilda of 2007 is a great example. After an Elimination Final loss to Melbourne, flamboyant St Kilda president Rod Butterss told the current coach Grant Thomas to go sailing with him around the world (in other words, sacked him). St Kilda was old, tired and needed a new spring in its step.
Thomas was gone with the wind and in came Ross Lyon. In 2007, the Saints were inconsistent. They only won four games in the first half of the season, although they came home in a hurry by winning their last seven in the second half, including one draw.
The Saints had gone from straight-out attack to reserved defence. This is in no way easy to do, but they slowly did it.
In 2008, they got thrashed by eventual premiers Hawthorn in a Preliminary final. The Saints had arrived, and went on to play in three Grand Finals, one being that infamous draw against Collingwood in 2010.
After five years of his services, both parties knew the end was nigh and Lyon packed his bags and headed west to Fremantle.
His spell at St Kilda began to flourish in his third year. Yes, he got them to a Preliminary Final in his second year, but it is what happened in his third, fourth and fifth years that saw him become a great coach.
He may have never won that second elusive premiership for the Saints, but he took the Saints deep into September, something the Saints are not well-known for.
His attitude and ability to make a team win 22 out of 25 games in a season is remarkable. To win 39 out of 51 games, including two draws, is even more remarkable.
He took an average list to not nearly win one premiership, but nearly two – wouldn’t you be happy to do that to a list which most would have thought couldn’t?
Trust, morale and game plan execution all took two and a half years to be built. This was all gradually ingrained into the player’s minds and they nearly got the ultimate reward.
But they didn’t, and the rest is history, but it is that easy for people to pull the trigger. Guy McKenna and Michael Voss will be under the spotlight next year if their teams stay at the bottom of the ladder.
McKenna goes into his third year next season and the sharks will be circling, but in his defence, he has the toughest gig in football; he has to teach a bunch of kids and borderline good players how to play AFL football. He will find it harder to get trust, as most of the players are in their early 20s and not fully mature.
In his first two years, we have seen the team slowly rise. It is next year that we will most likely see them rise even more. The kids have talent; it is just a matter of trust and boosting their endurance levels.
You cannot forget, they are a bunch of kids playing at the highest level of football. It will take time for them to adjust to the rigorous demands. By sending McKenna out the door, the new coach will have the same problem and Gold Coast will be back at square one.
Yet another example is Brisbane. Voss started well, then his head was on the chopping block, now he is a king in the lions den. The Lions have plenty of talent and a spine of Jonathan Brown, Matt Leuenberger and Daniel Merrett. Voss has built a team around Leigh Matthews’ three key position players and if they do not make the top four in his fifth year, they are a team that can keep their coach.
Many coaches cannot draft or trade for key position players. Voss was lucky to have those three listed, but he has also drafted some young talent in Tom Rockliff, Jack Redden and Billy Longer. The ability of Voss and the recruiting managers to find these talented players has highlighted that Voss is slowing building towards a successful coaching career.
This can be easy to understand, but many people switch off the lights too early on coaching careers.
If a club wants to strive for success, four to five years with the one coach is the best possible way. It all goes down to the basic elements of life. If Port Adelaide can be patient and allow Ken Hinkley to be trusted, the club will benefit in the long run.