A MONTH ago Collingwood assistant coach Brenton Sanderson might have been waking up in the middle of the night thinking about forward structures.

Now, he's burning the midnight oil tuning into web seminars from the University of Michigan.

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Sanderson is among the large majority of assistant coaches to have been stood down as a result of the AFL's decision to pause the season until at least May 31 as the coronavirus swept across Australia. Around 80 per cent of club and League staff were in the same position. 


But the former Adelaide coach is intent on making the most of his stint away from the Magpies, wasting no time in signing up to online courses to "upskill" during the isolation period.

It sees Sanderson, who has been at Collingwood since 2016 and overseas the forwards group, get up once a week at 2am to dial into the course from America.

"We're always looking for time to further your education and this is probably the perfect opportunity. There's some gaps in my CV and some areas I want to get better at," Sanderson told AFL.com.au.

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"Quite a few courses and seminars are being offered at the moment at reduced prices or even free, so I picked up this one at the University of Michigan, and I've been following them and done some courses through them before. This is an executive educational module around leadership and management."

With three young children at home, Sanderson said the middle of the night was perhaps the most productive time to be undertaking the study, which has a focus on organisational and leadership resilience in challenging times.

We understand that footy departments are going to look very different, but the extent of the change is unknown

- Brenton Sanderson

The online room sees around 2000 students from around the globe log in for the 90-minute session and be able to pose questions, answer polls and communicate with the presenter.

Sanderson will also partake in a communication and presenting course, which he thinks should aid his coaching, while also jumping into a "contract law masterclass", with ambitions to move into different areas of the football landscape in the future.

"That's something that interests me as well if you want to head down the path of list management or management roles down the track post-coaching, there's a couple of really good online courses coming up around contract law," he said.

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"There's opportunities to look for diversity on your CV to have a really solid foundation for potentially a new world in what things might look like. You might have to be a bit more [varied] with what you're capable of doing at a footy club in the short-term."

The former Geelong defender was heavily involved in the talent pathway as the head coach of the NAB AFL Academy after departing Adelaide before joining the Magpies ahead of the 2017 campaign.

He has been keeping in touch with Magpies players via regular text messages, but hasn't been given any direction yet from the club about the structure of their set-up upon football returning.



Clubs have been warned they will likely need to cut $1 million from their football department soft cap this year and $2 million the following season, putting jobs under threat.

"We understand that footy departments are going to look very different, but the extent of the change is unknown," Sanderson said.

"It would be a shame to lose good people out of the industry. It feels like it would be hard to get back to that level we had with less resources at a club's disposal.

"If you went with less coaches or analysts or fitness staff or medical team, there has to be a tipping point somewhere. "I know economically it's impossible to assume where the club's going to get to, but you would hate to see really good people forced to leave the industry."