BRETT Montgomery has emerged from the AFL's exclusive level four coaching program unsure where his future lies but eager to forge a career in the top tier.
The 2002 All Australian is into his second year as Melbourne Grammar's football director, a role he has juggled with being Greater Western Sydney's opposition analyst since Christmas.
Montgomery's Giants job signalled his return to AFL ranks after working at Carlton for three seasons, then six years with the Western Bulldogs before an abrupt exit on finals eve in 2016.
The 44-year-old played 204 games for the Bulldogs and Port Adelaide, where he won a club best and fairest in 2000 and the 2004 premiership, but retired suddenly in 2007 because of a serious neck injury.
He graduated last week from the course – viewed as the final step for prospective AFL coaches – alongside Collingwood assistant Justin Longmuir and Jade Rawlings, who is coaching Melbourne's VFL affiliate Casey.
"I thought I was on a clear pathway, but I worked out pretty quickly that pathway had a different idea, so I'm sort of just taking it as it comes," Montgomery told AFL.com.au.
"This is where the level four fitted in beautifully. Yes, it's a coaching course, but it's predominantly a leadership and management course, which we all know that high-level senior coaching is.
"You have to have a lot of things fall your way to become a senior coach that, at times, you have no control over, and that's the unpredictable and frustrating part of being on this journey."
He cleared several hurdles just to get into the course, including a presentation in front of the likes of Geelong CEO Brian Cook, ex-Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou and AFL Coaches' Association boss Mark Brayshaw.
Montgomery, the AFLCA's assistant of the year in 2014, was once driven only to be a senior coach, but now sees other opportunities at the top level.
"I couldn't say categorically yes or no," he said of whether he still wanted to be an AFL head coach.
"What you try and do is find yourself in the best possible job in the best possible environment; whether that's a senior role, a GM of footy, an ‘oppo’ analyst or a development manager.
"I've got a bit of a different take on things. Another thing the course taught me along the way is you should be patient."
Former Demons coach and Essendon champion Neale Daniher was Montgomery's mentor and "sounding board" during the two-year program.
"Brett was able to work with not only his peers in Justin and Jade, but also had access to good footy people as well as sports people, administrators, CEOs and AFL executives," Daniher said.
"So, hopefully it gives him, like all the candidates, a wider view of the industry, and that will prepare them in the broader view for what a senior coach has to be over."
Each coach in the level four course has an individual learning plan, is involved in group workshops, has an elite coaching mentor and completes a high-impact leadership program.
The AFL's new coaching innovation and education manager, David Rath, has taken over the running of it from Michael Poulton.
Montgomery, a father-of-four, worked closely with Demons draftee Charlie Spargo at Melbourne Grammar last year and is hopeful more of his students will join the AFL at year's end.