SYDNEY Swans premiership skipper Jarrad McVeigh believes a stint in the coaching hot seat could improve his on-field leadership.
The 30-year-old took the reins from John Longmire in the opening round of the NAB Challenge when the Swans played Port Adelaide.
The Swans' coaches came up with the idea of having McVeigh sit in the coach's seat and consulted the leadership group, who backed the move.
McVeigh got to work, viewing video, planning the week and discussing what would happen on game day, and admitted it was strange to find himself standing in front of the group ready to deliver the pre-match address.
"It was weird, but they [his teammates] were saying to me that because I speak to them before games anyway it was just as if it was a normal game," McVeigh told AFL.com.au.
"In my own head I was thinking different stuff, but they were pretty happy."
McVeigh caused some mirth among the other coaches soon after settling into his seat in the coaches' box when he innocently said after a passage of play, "Gee, we do some silly things sometimes."
Then he began to recognise what the coaches dealt with every time the team played.
"Just the little things … like trying to get a message to the runner for something to happen quick but he is out on the field," McVeigh said.
"By the time he comes back it's already changed again so you have to cancel that stuff."
McVeigh had suggestions coming from all angles, meaning his elite decision-making on the field was tested off it.
"I had to pick and choose which one I thought was best or if I wanted to go with my own gut," McVeigh said.
"[I was] trying to think through things on the spot pretty quickly and make a decision quickly because the game moves so fast. It was mentally draining, I guess."
When it came to addressing the team at the breaks he worked out a list of points he wanted to make before fronting the team.
"You don't want to get down there and just be staring at the boys," McVeigh said.
"I can't even remember what I was saying. I forgot a few things here and there. I just got through the points and just finished. 'Horse' [John Longmire] spoke to me about that."
The usual frustrations that might cause a coach to lose his way were not a factor with McVeigh. He knows how much harder it is to play and view the game at ground level than from a vantage point in the stand.
But he also understands how important it is for players to think like coaches might in the modern game, adjusting on the run, making decision, organising teammates.
McVeigh says the challenge for players is to work out how to quickly get messages across before the coaches even see it and filter them through the group.
It's what the best teams do and a competitive advantage over those who don't.
"We want to be on the spot and on the money," McVeigh said.
Afterwards, McVeigh pondered on the coach's role in the hours immediately before the game, and came to the conclusion that in the end, it's up to the players to perform.
"The ball is in the players' court in those few hours leading up to the game," McVeigh said.
And, he concedes, most of the game too.
"If your players don't turn up on the day, you are in a bit of trouble," McVeigh said.
McVeigh still has plenty of football left in him, but the experience hasn't dimmed his interest in coaching once his time is up. But the main measure of whether it was worth doing is whether it helps the team's leaders this season.
"We're always trying to build and improve on that," McVeigh said.
The Swans won, so McVeigh enters the season with a 100 per cent winning record.
"I really enjoyed it and got a lot out of it. Hopefully we can improve ourselves this year on top of it."