The Melbourne football club is in an unprecedented state of turmoil. Former CEO Cameron Schwab and president Don McLardy have recently resigned, signaling a mass exodus of the club’s most important personnel; adding to that, ex-coach Mark Neeld was unceremoniously ousted merely weeks ago. With a measly winning percentage of 15% over his 33-game tenure as head coach, Neeld quickly fell out of favour with the Melbourne board and was sacked despite being under contract for another year. One question now remains – who is willing to take charge and turn Melbourne’s woes around?
The punters over at Sportsbet believe the role is down to a four-horse race between Paul Roos ($2 odds), Mark Williams ($4), Rodney Eade ($5.50) and Neil Craig ($6). New Melbourne CEO Peter Jackson has publicly stated the club wants the best coach available, with Roos and Williams leading the way due to their premiership success at Sydney and Port Adelaide, respectively.
Paul Roos is the ideal candidate for the job. A champion centre half back at Fitzroy-cum-premiership coach at Sydney, he’s done it all. After taking over as coach of the Swans in 2002 (ironically from Rodney Eade) he quickly turned a struggling side around and garnered the support of fans and players alike, with the club gifting him the role of head coach despite Terry Wallace initially being their first preference. He knows what it takes to turn a club’s fortunes around – one of the reasons he is so highly regarded at Melbourne.
Roos has gone on record saying that he’s happy to speak to the club, but is ultimately uninterested in a coaching role. In saying that, Jackson has made clear that Roos is their coach of choice – they’ll throw everything they can at him. Interestingly, Roos was at long odds to take the helm last week, at $8 with most betting agencies – do the bookies know something we don’t? Roos stated that he has not been in contact with Melbourne since Neeld’s sacking in June, but the question can still be begged.
Mark Williams, on the other hand, still possesses a great interest in coaching, perhaps due to the terms on which he left the Port Adelaide football midway through the season in 2010. He is known as a nurturer of young players – something Melbourne desperately need with the likes of Jack Watts and Colin Sylvia (and many others) being under-utilised. Williams coached Port Adelaide to its first premiership in 2004, and to its infamous grand final defeat to Geelong in 2007. Currently, Williams is a development coach under Damien Hardwick at Richmond. Like Roos, he has tasted success and joins the aforementioned coach as the only candidates who have enjoyed premiership victories.
Richmond captain Trent Cotchin recently endorsed Williams as the perfect man to fill the vacancy, due to his tenacity and ability to get the best out of players. If Roos doesn’t have the passion to coach again, then Williams’ hunger surely cannot be ignored.
Rodney Eade and Neil Craig are both outside chances of scoring the job, and both possess similar coaching traits. They’ve coached their respective sides the Western Bulldogs and Adelaide to multiple preliminary finals, never making it to the last Saturday in September. There’s no doubting they’re both quality coaches – but when it comes to success and knowing what it takes, they lack experience – something Roos and Williams enjoy over the two.
Ultimately, the decision needs to come down to passion. If Roos continually claims he isn’t interested in the job, don’t give it to him. Williams has the fire and willingness to put in the hard yards with players to turn the club around. While Eade and Craig are realistic chances, the coaching role needs to go to someone who knows how to get the best out of their players and knows what it takes to taste premiership success.