Brad Scott and Michael Voss. Pictures: AFL Photos

MICHAEL Voss and Brad Scott have shared big stages before, but nothing like the one awaiting them Sunday night.

At the MCG at 7.20pm, the Voss and Scott chapters within the Carlton and Essendon storylines will again collide in front of a crowd expected to push 100,000.

They've been friends for 27 years, fearless players who shared multiple premiership success at Brisbane, and both were appointed to senior coach positions at just 33 years of age. Their first clash as coaches was way back in 2010, when Voss was in his second season of five in charge of the Lions and Scott in the first of 10 at North Melbourne.


On Sunday night, they will head to the MCG as wiser, more hardened 48-year-olds, both grateful for not just being given a second opportunity to coach at the highest level, but for being empowered to lead powerful, heavily resourced organisations back to past, and once-demanded, glory.

Voss and Scott have always loathed personal focus, and so for them in the lead-up to Sunday night and the exciting possibilities beyond it, there will not be one moment of self-reflection. Of only concern for them is to continue the solid progress made to this point of the 2024 season, where the Bombers sit second on the ladder and the Blues fifth.

Brad Scott during Essendon's draw with Collingwood on Anzac Day in round seven, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Simon Black, a teammate of Voss and Scott, and also a player under Voss for the entirety of Voss' first stint of coaching (2009-13), is thrilled for his mates as they position their new clubs toward success.

"I'm just rapt for them to get second opportunities, they've no doubt learnt a vast amount about coaching at the highest level, and about themselves, too … Vossy always put his hand up and said he learnt a lot from what happened at the Lions," Black said.

"One of the best compliments, I think, you can give a coach is if it becomes obvious he is able to put his persona, or imprint, on his players and his style of coaching, and Brad has done that very quickly. In fact, I think they have both done that. Hard, tough, ruthless, with a big value placed on defence, and the hard parts of the game. 

"Leigh (Matthews) always espoused that to us – team defence. Attack the opposition and do the hard things to get the ball back."

Simon Black and Michael Voss after Brisbane's win over Hawthorn in round two, 2002. Picture: AFL Photos

Black closed his extraordinary career the same year, 2013, Voss exited as Lions coach.

"Vossy … he probably got humbled a fair bit the first time around," Black said. "His playing career was exemplary, he battled hardship within that so well, and he's such a strong, tough guy, an extraordinary captain. He nailed that.

"Then came the different dynamic of coaching a group, and I guess in the era he took over, Clarko (Alastair Clarkson) was the dominant coach, with the Clarko's Cluster, and the game had changed strategically in that era and that time, and we were probably jumping around a bit, trying to work out the best way to play. 

"Getting (Brendan) Fevola and others including Amon Buchanan, Xavier Clarke, Brent Staker, Matty Maguire, just didn't elevate us, ultimately, as a team, and culturally that shifted the dynamic of a young group coming through.

"I think getting Fev impacted Vossy a lot. He said we had myself, Luke Power and Jonathan Brown and that the club wanted to give it a crack with us and for us, to help us, but history said it didn't work out.

Brendan Fevola during Brisbane's loss to Melbourne in round five, 2010. Picture: AFL Photos

"I remember I had a flight to Bali, and I landed in Darwin on the way there – it must have been a cheap flight! – but I remember it and Vossy rang me, this was post-season (2009), and he goes, 'just letting you know we are trading out 'Braddy' (Daniel Bradshaw) and we're picking up Fev', and I was like, 'Oh, OK'.

"As you get older, culture is such a big thing, and you understand the importance of quality people at your club, and 'Braddy' was such a good footy citizen, a great clubman for our club.  And I am dirty at myself that I wasn't stronger to say, 'Are you sure about this?'

"Fev obviously had a bit going on, and Vossy was adamant Braddy had a bad back and wouldn't play much more footy. I may be taking you off track here, but I remember that time. Vossy felt he could get Fev back on track. In hindsight, we lost a bit culture-wise, and quality people. We shot ourselves a bit in the foot, I reckon.

"Vossy was always my hero, though, always will be, and I was fortunate enough to play alongside him for 10 years. He is such a quality person. Above everything else, he is that … an amazing person. And I admire the way he went to Port Adelaide and worked with Ken (Hinkley), willing to do his coaching apprenticeship after he had been a senior coach, and be prepared to rebuild his career. I really admire him for that."

Michael Voss with Ken Hinkley during Port Adelaide's clash with Brisbane in round 19, 2016. Picture: AFL Photos

Fevola kicked 48 goals from 17 matches for Brisbane in 2010, but was sacked before the start of the next season.

Scott and Black arrived at Brisbane at the same time, late 1997, Black via the national draft and Scott after a trade with Hawthorn, where he had played 22 matches.

"They (Scott and Voss) are wo of the best competitors I've not just played with, but seen, both willing to do whatever it takes to win and a commitment to professionalism," Black said. "I loved nothing more than to go into battle with those two, because they would give everything they had. And they enjoyed the contest, too. I always walked taller when they were there.

"The '01 Grand Final, where Brad played on James Hird … we all knew what a champion Hird was, but we just had confidence that Brad would do a really good job. And then the '02 Grand Final (versus Collingwood) when it was a wet, slippery, tough game of football, those big bodies of Brad and Vossy were there the whole game. I remember Brad doing some really big things in big, pivotal moments. Big clashes, and Brad would just hold his line and clear the path for others, as did Vossy.

"As I said, I'm just so happy to see them get these chances they've now got. They absolutely deserve it."

Michael Voss and Brad Scott after Brisbane's win over Hawthorn in round 15, 2003. Picture: AFL Photos

Scott became the victim of a board room power play at North Melbourne, from which it is yet to recover. In his 10th season in 2019, and while still contracted for another, and having taken the club to consecutive preliminary finals appearances in 2014 and 2015, he and the Roos arranged to part.

Voss's two seasons at Carlton have produced ninth and third-placed finishes. Scott's one year at the Bombers saw them finish 11th. In seven matches against each other as coaches, Scott leads 5-2.

As players, Voss and Scott could not have achieved anything more. As coaches, they remain works in progress at big clubs desperately trying to return to the top they once considered a right.

Already-established football legacies as players would pale in comparison if they were to add the ultimate success as coach.

Two of the old-fashioned 'Big Four' are stirring under the control of these two mates. Sunday night at the MCG may merely be a round 13, 2024 match. But it is going to have rare tension attached to it. Maybe even preliminary final, 1999 tension.

X: @barrettdamian