I recently sat down with Collingwood’s director of football, Rodney Eade, to discuss the round one loss to Fremantle, leadership at the club, list management and free agency.
John Feeney: In terms of the loss to Fremantle, what has been the fall out amongst the players? What do you have to work on?
Rodney Eade: The main things were our defensive measures after quarter time and why that changed so much from the first quarter. Just our positioning…our structure defensively. We spoke about that. Obviously our use of the ball…a lot of turnovers, a lot of clangers. They’re probably the things we’ve spoken about the most and the things we need to tidy up going forward.
JF: Given Fremantle are quite a defensive side, and usually they don’t score so highly, however against Collingwood they did. Do you think they did anything different to what they’ve done in previous years?
RE: No doubt they’ve changed their style. They move the ball a lot more quickly from the back half, especially from what we call the defensive midfield. They switch the ball and use the corridor a little bit more and they play on a little bit more quickly. They’ve said all summer that they’re going to be a little bit more offensive, however, they’ve still got all their defensive structures in place and they are still a defensive side first and foremost, but with ball in hand they do move it a lot more quickly.
JF: Harking back to the last premiership side at Collingwood in 2010, guys like Dayne Beams, Jarryd Blair, Steele Sidebottom were the kids on the list at the time and were being led by Alan Didak, Ben Johnson, Darren Jolly etc. Now that these players have departed the club for various reasons, how have those young players from 2010 adjusted to being the leaders of the club and leading the way for players such as Paul Seedsman, Taylor Adams etc.?
RE: It’s been good. Beamsy (Dayne Beams) has had a couple of injury issues, so he’s not actually in the leadership group this year. But certainly with his professionalism, the way he goes about it and the example he sets is very positive. Blairy (Jarryd Blair) as well. (Nathan) Brown is another one. (Ben) Reid and those players who have been there for five or six years have embraced the leadership and have been able to take on some extra responsibility rather than being led by other people. So that’s been a positive. That’s still a growth area for us and obviously with Leading Teams we are focusing on that as far as development and leadership.
JF: Moving on to recruiting, Collingwood seems to get it right most years and this year you were lucky enough to get Nathan Freeman and Matt Scharenberg in the draft. What do you think separates Collingwood from other teams in terms of recruiting success?
RE: I won’t comment on other teams, but (list manager) Derek Hine has a pretty good record. The last couple of years we’ve been able to trade players like Chris Dawes and Sharrod Wellingham that gave us first round picks which helped us get Brodie Grundy and Ben Kennedy the year before last, and Dale Thomas going got us another first round pick. Obviously, the earlier the picks you get the better. But Derek Hine has been able to find some diamonds in the sand as well like young Tom Langdon this year, who is going to be a good player, and some rookie list players that we’ve done pretty well with. I think he (Hine) has a pretty good feel for the game, and a pretty good eye for talent, but at the same time, he has a good network around him and he nurtures that and develops that at the same time.
JF: Are there any players on the list that we haven’t seen yet that you have a high opinion of?
RE: I think what’s happened over the last year is that we’ve had a lot of injuries, so we’ve played most of the players that are on our list. So it’ll be the ones you mentioned, Scharenberg and Freeman, who are injured and not too far away from a return respectively, so they’re players who will get games this year. It’ll probably be the younger ones who we’ve played over the last two years that we’ll be expecting some growth. Guys like Josh Thomas, Paul Seedsman…those types of players…Marley Williams when he comes back, as well as players like Ben Sinclair who have been around for two or three years that we’ll be expecting some growth from.
JF: You’ll often hear teams speak about rebuilding plans, four year plans etc. Do these plans actually still exist or can you climb the ladder much quicker with some intelligent recruiting?
RE: A bit of both I think. There’s no doubt that recruiting can certainly help, but also your own development. Teams are starting to realise that you need to put more development into your players rather than trying to have to trade for them which saves you that angst of having to go looking for them from somewhere else. Also, just on a matter of recruiting players, I think development is a really big part of it, so I think they go hand in hand.
JF: Do you think teams need to completely bottom out?
RE: No, not at all. Not at all. I don’t think any team needs to. Obviously, some teams will for various reasons. I think Geelong have done it very well. They’ve phased out their older players while drafting some kids that are OK and putting them in to a good development program. Sydney’s model is different as they have obviously got players from other clubs. So there’s a whole range of ways of doing it, but I don’t think you need to bottom out.
JF: Obviously free agency has been around for the last two years. In your opinion, is it worthwhile or is it a death sentence for lower clubs such as Melbourne?
RE: I don’t think it was set up for that. I think it was set up to help middle tier players or lower level players find new homes. But the way it’s looking like is that the top end clubs are recruiting good players. I think it’s ending up being a little different to what they (the AFL) expected. I don’t think it’ll be a death knell, but I don’t think you’ll see many A grade players or big name players going to bottom teams. Players are interested in money but, at the same time, they’re interested in playing in successful teams or teams that have a chance to be successful. They might have to modify the rules, but how they do that I’m not too sure. It’s probably going against the grain of what they initially hoped it would be.
JF: Thanks for your time, Rodney.
RE: No worries.