He may have only been in charge for four games, but stand-in Hawthorn coach Brendon Bolton now holds a unique place in VFL/AFL history.
Under his tutelage, the Hawks have remained undefeated; and as such Bolton is the only coach to have been in charge for more than three games and to have never lost a match.
Indeed, Bolton’s record may stand for some time, as it is speculated sidelined coach Alastair Clarkson will return to the Hawks’ coaching box by round 16. This means Bolton may have just the one match remaining in his time as stand-in.
The Hawks’ opponent this week is the much-improved Gold Coast, and after their 40-point triumph over Geelong last weekend, the Suns will be brimming with confidence. However, the Hawks hold an imposing record over the Suns, remaining undefeated in five previous encounters and boasting an average winning margin of 54 points. Tellingly, the Hawks demolished the Suns at Metricon Stadium back in round four to the tune of 99 points.
If the Hawks are able to overcome the Suns, Bolton will hold a 5-0 career record and will be more than content to slip back into the assistant’s chair; allowing Clarkson to resume his position in charge of the Hawks as they push for back-to-back flags.
One thing Bolton has shown in his short time as a senior coach is that he has been far from overawed in the role, and any prospective AFL club which may be seeking a senior coach in the near future would be reckless in overlooking Bolton as a candidate.
Even in his media conferences, Bolton has been a breath of fresh air, seeming genuinely excited to be in charge of an AFL club, and one that is right in the mix for a premiership at that.
It certainly is a far cry from his debut coaching role at the tender age of 24 at North Hobart in Tasmania’s Southern Football League. Bolton was successful that year as the Demons claimed the flag, and his fate as a coach of some worth was set in stone.
Interestingly, Hawthorn has a history of fill-in coaches enjoying success, as Alan Joyce could testify. Joyce stepped up to the role of senior coach at the Hawks in 1988, with regular coach Allan Jeans stricken with illness.
After losing the previous year’s Grand Final to Carlton, the Hawks had plenty to prove, and did so with aplomb, claiming the premiership with a then-record demolition of Melbourne by 96 points in the 1988 decider.
When Jeans was deemed fit to return the following year, Joyce stood aside and the Hawks famously went on to claim the 1989 premiership, the Hawks’ first back-to-back premiership success in the club’s history.
Now as Bolton prepares for his last days in charge of Hawthorn, he and those around him hope the Hawks are able to emulate their 1988/89 predecessors and claim back-to-back flags yet again. If they are able to do so, Clarkson will owe a great deal of gratitude to the unassuming but highly effective Bolton.