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BARRETT: Why the caretaker wins, but a warning for Roos and Blues

'Cool our jets' on Rhyce Shaw Damian Barrett tells Access All Areas the 'groundswell' on Rhyce Shaw to coach the Kangas needs to relax

THERE have been two famous, all-time great exceptions, but history indicates interim coaches aren't always the best options for clubs looking for new leaders. With Rhyce Shaw and David Teague starting to create positive headlines, Damian Barrett takes a look at their chances of permanent roles in the context of those who have been there before.

AN INTERIM coach in the AFL lives in an intriguing, unreal world.

He has nothing to lose.

A caretaker coach's body of work is never going to be substantial – or real – enough to make a decision based purely on that interim period.

Almost always, the opportunity to coach in his own right has come prematurely due to the failings of a man he once reported to as an assistant, and he will inherit a group of players well known to him.

Those players will be dealing with emotions covering the extremes of anger, relief, shell shock, appreciation, vengeance, hurt, confusion, frustration, guilt and embarrassment. 

Blues caretaker coach David Teague has two wins from his first three matches. Picture: AFL Photos

And there's one guarantee – the interim coach will 'free the players up', both off the field and with the roles asked of them within a match.

Rhyce Shaw and David Teague are the AFL's latest temporary coaches, and both have started in extraordinary style.

Under Shaw, North Melbourne, which exited an in-contract Brad Scott after round 10, has won three of four matches, with last weekend's stunning thrashing of second-placed Collingwood allowing the club to start dreaming of a most unlikely finals berth.

Emotions ran high when Brad Scott left North, but results have only improved. Picture: AFL Photos

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Carlton has won two of three (against top-eight teams Brisbane and Fremantle), and lost the other by three points, an extraordinary sequence of matches given the Blues had won just four of the last 43 matches coached by Brendon Bolton.

Officials at both clubs are beginning to wonder if their next permanent coaches are already on their books.

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North Melbourne started out its post-Scott life determined to poach ex-Roos identities. It wanted one of Alastair Clarkson, John Longmire or Adam Simpson to accept an offer to coach, and has convinced Brady Rawlings, a three-time best-and-fairest winner, to leave West Coast and assume a senior football department role next year.

But with Clarkson and Simpson having already said no, the Roos are now very open to Shaw being given the job.

The lure of heading 'home' to Arden Street isn't enough for Adam Simpson to leave the Eagles. Picture: AFL Photos

Carlton seems less likely than North to appoint its interim coach as the main one, but Teague's fresh approach has certainly convinced all at the club that they made the right call on parting with Bolton. 

Both clubs need to hold firm on the decisions they know they need to make about their futures.

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A caretaker coach's body of work is never going to be substantial – or real – enough to make a decision based purely on that interim period, as other clubs have discovered with hindsight. 

On three consecutive occasions between 1994 and 2002, the Western Bulldogs installed caretaker coaches as permanent ones, once with relative success.

Alan Joyce replaced Terry Wheeler in the 1994 season, and then was moved on himself during the 1996 season, after taking the side to seventh in 1995. 

Terry Wallace took over, and had immediate impact with preliminary final appearances in 1997 and 1998. 

'Plough' forged a successful playing career before coaching the Dogs and Tigers. Picture: AFL Photos

In the week leading into the final game of the 2002 season, Wallace announced he would be leaving – to coach Sydney in a deal which was not then known – but wanted to coach that last match.

The Bulldogs refused his request and installed Peter Rohde for that game, and then beyond, where he was to finish last and third-last.

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Grant Thomas had tried desperately to work his way into senior coaching jobs long before his politicking was successful at St Kilda in 2001. 

Behind the scenes, Thomas, a Saints board member at the time, was bad-mouthing coach Malcolm Blight, who was sacked after just 15 matches.

On the same day Thomas, as a Saints director, voted with others to sack Blight, he assumed caretaker coaching duties and to the surprise of no one, he was soon given the permanent role.

Grant Thomas with Brendon Goddard, the No.1 pick from the 2002 NAB AFL Draft. Picture: AFL Photos

Thomas took St Kilda to consecutive preliminary finals in 2004-05, and an elimination final in 2006 before being sacked himself and replaced by Ross Lyon.

Other interim coaches being appointed permanently, without being able to achieve the ultimate success, include Jeff Gieschen at Richmond in 1997, Matt Primus (Port Adelaide, 2010) and Mark Harvey (Fremantle, 2007). 

Neil Craig took over from Gary Ayres in 2004, and was then in charge for six full seasons before moving on during 2011. The Crows made consecutive preliminary finals in 2005-06, elimination finals in 2007 and 2008, and a semi-final in 2009.

Neil Craig had a highly successful stint as coach of the Crows. Picture: AFL Photos

Brett Ratten replaced Denis Pagan at Carlton in 2007, and maintained the senior role for five years, with consecutive finals appearances in 2009, 2010 and 2011.

Shaw and Teague will be hoping their clubs pay most attention to the examples of Leigh Matthews in 1986 at Collingwood, and Paul Roos in 2002 at Sydney.

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Both Matthews, who replaced Bob Rose, and Roos – after senior player and mass-fan lobbying fought and ultimately overturned the arrangement for Wallace to be appointed after the axing of Eade – were given the permanent roles.

It took Matthews a fourth season to secure a premiership, and Roos a third.

In 2005, Paul Roos led the Swans to their first flag in 72 years. Picture: AFL Photos

Both North and Carlton are being run by boards which are being driven by the frustrations attached to under-performance.

Those boards are now hellbent on change that gives the best chance of instant success, and Shaw and Teague are looming large. 

It is an admirable and understandable mindset, but it would be fraught to appoint them without adherence to proper process.

Twitter: @barrettdamian

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs