Collingwood development coach Neville Jetta. Picture: AFL Photos

THE CALENDAR is almost always full for Neville Jetta.

The former Melbourne champion's playing days in the AFL might have come to an end back in 2021, but the pursuit of bettering himself hasn't. As one of the competition's most impressive young coaches, Jetta has been tireless in ensuring he makes the most of the next phase of his career in football.

After retiring as a player following Melbourne's premiership season, Jetta had given little thought to moving into coaching before a catchup via Zoom with Collingwood's Craig McRae first opened his mind to the idea. Now into his third season in his role as a Magpies development coach, there's been little looking back.

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"From my first conversation with 'Fly', he gave me great belief that I could come in and help the players, himself and the other coaches that he'd got together," Jetta told

"He thought I could really drive his gameplan and what he believed in. From that first conversation, I definitely felt like I could come in and help bring my strengths and who I am as a person to the football club.

"Outside of just being a player, I was still trying to find out what it looked like in a whole new landscape. Coaching was something that, once I got my head around that I was going to go into that role, I got pretty excited about it and I couldn't wait to walk another 200m up the road from AAMI Park."

Nick Daicos and development coach Neville Jetta at Collingwod training on September 13, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

In the midst of this season's Sir Doug Nicholls Round, Jetta – a proud Noongar man – is one of just three Indigenous coaches currently working in the AFL, alongside North Melbourne's Xavier Clarke and Port Adelaide's Jason Williams.

His position sees him work closely with Collingwood's AFL team and its VFL affiliate side, while he also aids the club's younger players in their transition from reserves football to senior level. But a third role, away from the Magpies, is playing a significant part in his own development as a coach as well.

This year, the 34-year-old is still getting a kick at Fitzroy Stars, an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander club playing in Division 3 of the Northern Football League. But he's combined that playing role with a more hands-on coaching job at the club, taking his own ideas crafted at Collingwood to the local levels. It's why his calendar remains more hectic than ever.

"We've got the AFL program during the day, the VFL program at night, then being a younger coach I still want to go and have a run around. That's Tuesday and Thursday nights taken up as well. Plus the weekends are very busy," Jetta said.

Neville Jetta addresses his Fitzroy Stars teammates during the 2023 VACSAL Football Netball Carnival in October, 2023. Picture: Instagram / @fitzroystarsfnc / Tyson Austin

In the absence of an AFL Level 3 coaching course this season – as the League restructures the program – the idea to get more involved at the Fitzroy Stars was born from Jetta's own initiative to fast-track his coaching development. Working under the club's current senior coach, ex-Richmond player Lionel 'Jacko' Proctor, the decision has already paid obvious and rewarding dividends.

"We're Division 3 on Saturdays, so when the VFL program and AFL program don't align I'll head down and play off half-back trying to create myself a plus-one on most weekends," Jetta laughed.

"That's probably been a different layer of coaching. I've gone down and used Fitzroy for my own development. I've been able to go down and implement a few things with them and trial a few different things that I've got my own ideas about.

"I've been doing their conditioning and in pre-season I did the planning in and around gameplans and fitness. Then, coming into the year, I did the reviews and their pre-game stuff as well and what the training plan looks like and creating new drills for them.

"Without taking too much from the coaches they have there already, I've just been an added bonus and bringing my wealth of knowledge and understanding of the game and giving that to the local players there. We're going OK, we're 5-1 at the moment and we've only had our best team once.

"That's been a really good development tool for myself because it's completely different to an AFL or a VFL program. They're three different types of programs that I'm working with and I get a different type of enjoyment out of all of them."

Jetta might have barely considered a career in coaching during his playing days, but in hindsight his ability to teach was always evident. Looking back now, he can vividly remember the parts he played in the successful development of Christian Salem and then Trent Rivers during the latter stages of his time at Melbourne.

Neville Jetta and Christian Salem at Melbourne training on August 18, 2018. Picture: AFL Photos

But perhaps his curiosity in coaching was sparked during his involvement in an AFL Victoria program back in 2016, where he helped lead a 'Neville Jetta Squad' competing in the Six Nations Diversity Cup.

"The reward and the satisfaction I got from being able to help people was always something I loved," Jetta said.

"Growing up in an Aboriginal community, the Noongar community in Western Australia, everything was about sharing and caring and looking after one another first and foremost before yourself. That has definitely stuck with me.

"That program (in 2016) was a lot of fun and we had players ranging from not even playing footy before, they were coming in and starting then. I've followed some of their journeys, stayed connected via social media, and seeing them progress to playing senior footy at different levels within Victoria, that's special."

But it's at Collingwood where Jetta has been given his first official taste in a coaching capacity. After 159 games across 13 years at Melbourne, the change in environment has been welcome – and successful.

Having played five games in the Demons' premiership campaign back in 2021, Jetta was then part of the Magpies coaching team that helped guide the side to last year's premiership success. Both seasons have helped outline fresh ideas in his coaching journey.

Retiring Melbourne veterans Nathan Jones and Neville Jetta at the Demons' premiership celebration on December 5, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

"It was so important for me," Jetta said of the move to Collingwood.

"I spent 13 years at Melbourne and had a lot of highs and lows. More than anything, it was refreshing. Meeting new people, forming new relationships, meeting 'Fly' for the first time and seeing what he wanted to implement and being a part of something that was just starting, it was really exciting.

"I felt like I had a fingerprint on his gameplan and also on the development and how we could really get our young guys going and into the AFL team as quickly as possible. It was refreshing, I really started to enjoy my football and watching football.

"There is definitely a formula that needs to happen to win a premiership. The selfless nature of it all, how players were looking after one another, coaches all on the same page, families being right in amongst it and feeling part of the club, the fans are connected as well. When everyone is pushing in the same direction, it makes it easier.

"Sitting back and watching in 2021, as a player, it was bloody tough. But it's definitely different to watching now as a coach and having a different impact on that result and the outcome. I'm incredibly proud of being part of both."

Ash Johnson, Neville Jetta, Mannon Johnson, Bobby Hill and Nathan Kreuger after Collingwood's win in the 2023 Grand Final. Picture: AFL Photos

So, is a senior coaching role on the radar one day in the future? Those he played and worked alongside at Melbourne certainly think so, as do a host of current colleagues at Collingwood. But, for now, the highly respected Jetta is taking things slowly.

"I'm in a space where I just want to keep getting better," Jetta said.

"I feel like right now, with my family situation, senior coaching feels like a long way away. My children are 12 and nine. I'm just trying to be present for them, in terms of their important milestones.

"At some stage, I wouldn't say no. But that's a long way from where I am right now. I'm just trying to be present as a development coach and continue to learn and grow in this space.

"It's been great seeing people like 'Fly', Justin Leppitsch, Brendon Bolton, Josh Fraser and Hayden Skipworth, these type of people at the club who have been around footy for a long time in the coaching space, being able to listen and watch and take little bits from each and every one of them and add it to my coaching ability.

"I'm just going to try and stay in this space for as long as I can to make sure that when I do and if I'm able to step into a more senior role, I'm ready and prepared and I can manage to bring the best out of people."