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'One of the best minds in footy' to leave the Demons

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A SECOND Melbourne assistant coach is on the move, with strategy and education coordinator Craig Jennings set to depart at season's end.

The Demons have already confirmed that ex-Western Bulldogs coach-turned-Melbourne assistant Brendan McCartney won't be continuing at the club next year.

Jennings is part of the AFL's exclusive Level Four coaching program, which has produced senior coaches Simon Goodwin, Stuart Dew and Brendon Bolton, Geelong football boss Simon Lloyd and a series of highly touted assistants. 

Jennings is on the move. Picture: AFL Photos

AFL.com.au understands he's been in discussions with Demons coach Goodwin for some time about his wish to coach his own team and tick another box on his football resume.

It is believed Jennings is keen to pursue an AFL-aligned VFL coaching job for next season and his management is in negotiations with multiple clubs. 

Melbourne co-captain Nathan Jones endorsed Jennings last year as a senior coach-in-waiting, praising his tactical nous and ability to present ideas in a "refreshing" manner.

"He's one of the best minds in footy I've seen," Jones told AFL Nation.

"He is quite quirky, particularly in the way he educates and teaches players, which is terrific, really."

Jennings worked at Essendon for a decade as an opposition analyst – alongside Goodwin for some of that time – and spent another year at the Western Bulldogs in the same role, before joining the Demons for the 2016 season. 

He coached Melbourne to the inaugural AFLX title last year and has studied extensively, as well as analysing leading soccer teams in the Middle East to hone his coaching philosophies. 

Jennings played in North Melbourne's 1991 under-19s premiership, and the Kangaroos drafted him but he didn't make a senior appearance.

McCartney and another assistant, Max Rooke, were demoted in a coaching reshuffle during the Demons' round 13 bye that saw Jade Rawlings switched from VFL coach to looking after Rooke's old job with the forwards. 

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Rooke, who returned to being a development coach, is contracted for one more year but it's believed the decision took him by surprise and he held some fears about his future.

The mid-season changes were a response to Melbourne's disastrous 2019 campaign, where it sits second-from-bottom with only five wins after surging into a preliminary final last year. 

The Demons will also have a new performance manager next year in ex-Arsenal and Port Adelaide fitness guru Darren Burgess, who replaces David Misson in the position.