Coaches’ fate shows shift in power base

Far from feeling rushed or even emboldened by Adelaide’s clumsy handling of the dismissal of coach Brenton Sanderson, Gold Coast should regard the Crows’ actions as a cautionary tale.
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Guy McKenna looks finished as coach of the AFL’s 17th club and is operating under contractual terms that will not require a significant payout.

The young playing group entrusted into “Bluey’s” care is growing up and has begun to question the coach’s methods, and the Suns’ development and free agency has led to a significant shift in the power base at football clubs – particularly clubs in small but crucial new markets.

At least that was Adelaide’s excuse. But only nine months earlier the Crows had extended Sanderson’s contract by two years, and to help justify the club’s ineptitude it largely blamed the players.

The players, although several have privately admitted they had lost faith in Sanderson, were filthy at being singled out and in turn have pointed to the fact that the only real changes in nine months were the appointment of Adelaide legend Mark Ricciuto to the board and the departure of chief executive Stephen Trigg.

The other problem for the Crows was the rise of Port Adelaide, both off but more significantly on, the football field.

Either way the Adelaide directors and their chairman, Rob Chapman, should be the group under pressure. First Matt Rendell, then the Kurt Tippett affair and now a coach sacking that demands a massive financial settlement. And Trigg is no longer around to alone shoulder the blame.

Even when Port Adelaide was a basket case and sacking its favourite son Matthew Primus, the Power chairman Brett Duncansen had the good grace to take responsibility and resign.

Neither Adelaide nor Gold Coast appears to have a clear candidate as coach in mind, with the fashionable Simon Goodwin now committed to Melbourne, while Hawthorn assistant Brett Ratten is one prospect expected to come back into contention.

McKenna has been dealt a difficult hand, particularly over the second half of the season. Gold Coast has suffered one of the worst injury loads in the competition pretty much from the outset, and in its last 12 weeks of 2014 had an average of about 13 players unavailable each round.

Captain Gary Ablett said during Monday night’s Brownlow Medal count that he expected to address the board next week. He spoke of his affection for McKenna and added that he expected him to be at the club next season. But he would, wouldn’t he? Ablett is pivotal in this scenario and were he supporting McKenna, the coach would not be facing the sack.

It might be unfair to single Ablett out, but no player holds such influence at any other AFL club.

The AFL too deserves some scrutiny for the performance of the club it still largely controls. It cannot have helped McKenna nor the football department that the Suns’ respected chief executive, Travis Auld, was being wooed to head office just as it all began to fall apart for McKenna. Because had Ablett not broken his shoulder, the Suns would probably have reached the finals and McKenna could have served out his contract.

The club has Auld’s deputy, Andrew Travis, serving as interim CEO, but it is football manager Marcus Ashcroft reviewing the Suns’ football operation. This suggests he is really only reviewing the coach and is now interviewing Gold Coast players whose thoughts will formalise McKenna’s departure.

There is no nice way of sacking coaches and Gold Coast cannot be accused of doing an Adelaide. But this remains a disappointing ending for the man who joined the fledgling club as an under-18s coach, who virtually drove a school bus of local boys in his first season, was cruelled from making finals when Ablett went down, and then lost the support of those young men and their elder teammates.

It was Greater Western Sydney and not the Suns who botched some early key appointments. Now the Gold Coast community DNA has been transformed by admitting it no longer believes in McKenna. It needs to get his replacement right if it is to preserve its golden and sunny image.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.