THE COACHING landscape faced significant change and serious challenges as COVID-19 swept through football last year.
The impact on coaching structures was evident in the turnover of staff as the AFL slashed the soft cap by 30 per cent from more than $9 million to just over $6 million for this season.
Over the next week, AFL.com.au will delve into the effects of the sweeping personnel changes, the new ways and different models being worked through, and the future of the roles as clubs come to grips with fewer staff and different focuses.
To start, here are the coaching panel changes for each club from the start of 2020 before the pandemic struck to now, just weeks from the 2021 season beginning.
Senior coach Matthew Nicks has reshaped his coaching team for 2021 with three new line coaches, welcoming highly rated trio Scott Burns (defence), Nathan van Berlo (midfield) and James Rahilly (forwards) to the club. Mick Godden was re-hired as the club's SANFL coach after losing his midfield duties, while Ben Hart returned to Melbourne. Marty Mattner lost his role last year when the 2020 season was temporarily shut down, alongside several game analysis and high-performance staff. Development coach Paul Thomas was another casualty of the cuts. Head of development Heath Younie departed for North Melbourne and was replaced by Marco Bello, with Brent Reilly and Matthew Wright remaining as development coaches. The Crows hired a new football and data strategist, poaching Chris Sheedy from Port Adelaide. AFLW coach Matthew Clarke remains involved with the AFL team as a part-time ruck coach. – Nathan Schmook
The Lions have had minimal changes from their 2020 roster after each coach took a pay cut to keep the group together. The main move came following David Noble's appointment as North Melbourne's new senior coach, which resulted in Danny Daly moving from the strategy coach role into Noble's former position as general manager of football. Mark Stone comes in as the new strategy coach. Development coaches Paul Henriksen and Zane Littlejohn were stood down during the COVID shutdown and now have positions coaching the club's Academy. Jed Adcock (forwards), Dale Tapping and Ben Hudson (midfield), Murray Davis (backline), Scott Borlace (development) and Mitch Hahn (VFL) remain in their roles. – Michael Whiting
The most significant aspect of Carlton's cuts enforced by the COVID-19 pandemic came about following the split with long-time VFL affiliate the Northern Blues, in order to create a standalone second-tier side. It meant parting ways with Northern Blues coach Josh Fraser, with Carlton development coach Daniel O'Keefe stepping into the role as the reserves team's new senior coach from 2021. All Blues specialist coaches – including skills coach and club legend Greg Williams, goalkicking coach Sav Rocca, ruck coach Hamish McIntosh and development coach Jason Davenport – were stood down earlier in the year and ultimately let go as a result of the changing landscape. Henry Playfair, who was brought into the club as head of coaching performance last season, was another unfortunate casualty of the pandemic. However, all assistant coaches – John Barker, Dale Amos, Cameron Bruce and Brent Stanton, as well as head of development Luke Power – retained their positions underneath senior coach David Teague. Club great Matthew Kreuzer was appointed the team's new ruck coach in December, having announced his playing retirement earlier in the year.. – Riley Beveridge
There has been considerable turnover in the Magpies' coaching group over the past 12 months. The club stood down VFL coach and development assistant Garry Hocking and Brad Gotch, who was coach development manager, when COVID-19 struck and both did not return to the club. Robert Harvey and Brenton Sanderson continue to act as Nathan Buckley's lieutenants, while Hayden Skipworth, who was previously the head development coach, stepped up to be a line coach after Matthew Boyd's move to Fremantle. Anthony Rocca is no longer engaged as ruck coach and has taken up a role with North Melbourne, but Scott Selwood remains as a development mentor. The Pies have gone from nine full-time coaching panel members to seven, having brought Damian Carroll to the club from Hawthorn as its new head of development. Carroll has already won plaudits for his impact over summer. Ash Close has a dual role, mixing his analytics expertise with a development position. – Callum Twomey
The Bombers’ coaching panel lost a member this week with James Kelly resigning from his assistant’s role for more family time. The late out on the eve of the season follows significant change over the past 12 months with the departure of senior coach John Worsfold, who after five years in the job handed over the reins officially to senior assistant Ben Rutten at the end of 2020. The succession plan created a stacked coaching panel that started last year with nine members, with development and VFL coach Mark Corrigan also let go by the club as COVID-19 hit. Club legend Mark Harvey, who was the stoppages coach last season, has taken on a new multi-role in the football department that includes pro scouting. The Bombers start this year with seven members of their coaching group, having added highly regarded Bulldogs assistant Daniel Giansiracusa. Blake Caracella and Dan Jordan remain as assistants, while Leigh Tudor and Cam Roberts take care of the Bombers' development program. The club will not replace Kelly but instead redistribute his responsibilities internally. – Callum Twomey
The Dockers parted with experienced assistant coaches Anthony Rock and Michael Prior late in Justin Longmuir's first season as senior coach, as well as high performance manager Jason Weber. Development coach Marc Webb was also not offered a new contract, while specialist kicking coach Mark LeCras could not be retained under football department cuts. Premiership-winning pair Matthew Boyd (backline) and Joel Corey (development) joined the coaching group, which again includes Josh Carr (midfield), David Hale (forwards) and Adam Read (development). Tendai Mzungu moved from Next Generation Academy coach to development coach, while Aaron Sandilands continues to work with the ruckmen on a part-time basis. Development coaches last year, Roger Hayden and Simon Eastaugh have each moved into the club's community engagement team. Phil Merriman joined the club from Melbourne as the new high performance manager. – Nathan Schmook
The Cats have maintained a stable panel through COVID-19 with just one departure from the start of last season. Long-serving assistant James Rahilly, who had most recently worked in development as the club's Academy manager, has accepted the position of forwards coach at Adelaide. Chris Scott will take the reins as senior coach for his 11th consecutive season with Matthew Knights (midfield), Matthew Scarlett (defence) and Corey Enright (forwards) again the line coaches. Nigel Lappin works in ball movement and midfield, while Shaun Grigg continues in development. Shane O'Bree will be the Cats' VFL coach for the sixth-straight year. – Mitch Cleary
They have the biggest playing list in the competition (48) and the Suns now have far less coaches to service them than 12 months ago. Senior assistant Dean Solomon was the biggest casualty in 2020, while forwards coach Ashley Prescott and Nick Malceski (NEAFL) are also not returning. Andrew Swallow (development) and Justin Koschitzke (ruck) also lost their part-time roles. The cupboard has been slightly restored though with former North Melbourne coach Rhyce Shaw joining as head of development and another former Swan Kurt Tippett in a part-time role to mentor the Suns' key forwards. Tim Clarke has moved from a development position to coaching the forward line, while Josh Drummond (defence), Josh Francou (midfield) and Tate Kaesler (VFL) remain. – Michael Whiting
Episode 2 of our pre-season series Day by Day has dropped. Take a look at how the start of 2021 unfolded thanks to @VirginAustralia. #ChallengeAccepted— Gold Coast Suns (@GoldCoastSUNS) January 18, 2021
FULL EP: https://t.co/AYSrda1lYK pic.twitter.com/ByJiQAi9yx
There's been a number of changes and a lot of reshuffling at the Giants. Lenny Hayes and Brad Miller both decided to step aside at the end of last season for lifestyle reasons, while head of development and welfare Brett Hand was made redundant. In their places, Steve Johnson returns to the club he finished his playing career at to be the forward line coach, while Craig Lambert has also returned in a part-time development role. The shuffle of roles has seen Mark McVeigh move to handle the midfield after six seasons coaching the backline. Adam Schneider will now coach the defence, while Luke Kelly has taken over as the head of development. – Michael Whiting
Alastair Clarkson begins his 17th year at the helm with a streamlined and new-look coaching panel. Stoppages coach Scott Burns (Adelaide), forwards coach Adem Yze (Melbourne) and head of development Damian Carroll (Collingwood) have departed for new clubs. Development mentors Brett Deledio (player management), Marco Bello (Adelaide) and Torin Baker (Carlton) have moved on since the start of 2020, with Box Hill VFL coach Max Bailey quitting the industry in September to take a position as an advisor at Bunnings. Sam Mitchell moves from his midfield role to development boss combined with Box Hill coach, while Brendon Bolton takes on the sole midfield coaching role after spending last year as the director of coaching. Chris Newman continues in defence, Craig McRae crosses from Richmond as forwards coach, while Andy Otten (development) and Damian Monkhorst (part-time ruck coach) remain. – Mitch Cleary
Melbourne's off-field shake-up saw former St Kilda coach Alan Richardson move into the position of general manager of AFL football performance. It saw him initially split the head of football responsibilities with Josh Mahoney, before the latter accepted a role at Essendon in December. Former club great Adem Yze returned as an assistant coach, with Troy Chaplin and Greg Stafford also retaining their positions underneath senior coach Simon Goodwin. Fitness coach Daniel Cross and development coach Max Rooke were let go, having initially been stood down during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, while former Sydney premiership player Ben Matthews returned to the Swans after a seven-year stint as an assistant. Fellow assistant Justin Plapp accepted a role as head coach of Williamstown's VFL side. Port Adelaide's former premiership coach Mark Williams was a high-profile addition as the club's new head of development, while the Casey Demons appointed Mark Corrigan to lead its VFL team in the wake of Sam Radford's departure. – Riley Beveridge
North Melbourne made a change at the top during the off-season, with Rhyce Shaw coming to a mutual agreement to leave the club after just one full campaign in charge after taking time away from the game for personal reasons. Shaw was replaced by the experienced David Noble, who will enjoy senior help from long-time former Sydney assistant coach and club great John Blakey and ex-Adelaide development manager Heath Younie. The club also hired respected ex-Carlton and Collingwood player Jordan Russell as an assistant, while former star goalkicker Anthony Rocca has joined in a development role to aid the side's key-position and ruck players. The Kangaroos parted ways with assistant coaches Jade Rawlings and Jarred Moore at the conclusion of last season, while line coaches Jared Rivers and Brendan Whitecross did not re-join the club after being stood down earlier in the year. Specialist coaches Will Minson and Heath Scotland were also made redundant, as well as Next Generation Academy coach Michael Firrito and head of football performance Jason Lappin. Former development coach Leigh Adams has also replaced David Loader in charge of the club's standalone VFL team from 2021. Gavin Brown has retained his role as head of development, while games record holder Brent Harvey remains in his position as a development coach. – Riley Beveridge
The Power made changes to their football department early in the pandemic and have been able to maintain stability since then with Ken Hinkley's line coaches. Development coach Scott Thompson, who has joined Adelaide's AFLW coaching staff, and experienced development coach Geoff Morris were among those to leave the club. Premiership player and physiotherapist Michael Wilson also departed, while senior football analyst Chris Sheedy joined rivals Adelaide. Assistant coaches Michael Voss (senior assistant), Nathan Bassett (forwards/team offence), Brett Montgomery (backs/team defence) and Jarrad Schofield (midfield) were all retained, along with SANFL coach Matthew Lokan and development coaches Chad Cornes, Trent Hentschel and Tyson Goldsack, who is on the Power's playing list. – Nathan Schmook
Fresh off back-to-back flags, the Tigers have shuffled the decks to replace two outgoing assistant coaches under Damien Hardwick. Backline/defence coach Justin Leppitsch has left the football industry, while forwards coach Craig McRae has crossed to Hawthorn in the same role. Adam Kingsley, who last year looked after midfield/stoppages, moves back to assume Leppitsch's post. Andrew McQualter takes control of the forwards combined with his ball movement remit after having a stronger focus on midfield in 2020. Sam Lonergan has stepped up from development to take on Kingsley's position across midfield/stoppages as Ivan Maric continues his work with the ruckmen. Xavier Clarke, who will coach the club's VFL side, will assist Lonergan. The Tigers' line coaches will take responsibility for development, with former development coach Ryan Ferguson cut last year, only to win the job as AFLW head coach. – Mitch Cleary
The Saints have had a slight shake-up of roles following COVID-19 as Brett Ratten prepares for his second full campaign at the helm. Brendon Lade returns to manage the midfield unit on his own this year, swapping with Adam Skrobalak who shifts to the forwards. Stoppages and team structure assistant Robbie Chancellor, who was let go last year due to COVID-19 cut, has landed the role as Western Jets coach in the NAB League. Aaron Hamill remains as the backline coach and will be supported by development coach Jake Batchelor who will also coach the Saints' VFL alignment club Sandringham. Ben McGlynn has been promoted to the Saints' head of development, while Nathan Lovett-Murray has assisted on the training track this summer, combining his welfare role with development coaching. Jarryd Roughead continues in his football department role that includes working with the young key forwards, while the Saints are working through options to keep leadership mentor Billy Slater onboard in 2021. – Mitch Cleary
Former Adelaide coach Don Pyke headlines the new faces in a major shake-up for the Swans in 2021. After sitting out last season following four years in charge at the Crows, Pyke will focus on strategy and opposition analysis under coach John Longmire. Former premiership player Ben Mathews is also a new face and will coach the defensive unit. The Swans have been forced into big turnover though, with John Blakey (North Melbourne) and Steve Johnson (GWS) heading elsewhere, and Tadhg Kennelly and Lloyd Perris stood down and then made redundant due to COVID. Brett Kirk has moved from development into the welfare role left behind by Dennis Carroll's departure. – Michael Whiting
The Eagles have reshuffled their coaching team after the loss of midfield coach Nathan van Berlo to Adelaide, also moving stoppages coach Daniel Pratt, who wanted the opportunity to coach his own team, to the dual role of AFLW and WAFL coach. As a result, assistant Adrian Hickmott has taken on midfield duties, with Jaymie Graham (backline) and Luke Webster (forwards) remaining as line coaches. Gavin Bell will continue as head of development, with the support of Mark Nicoski and new development coach Kyal Horsley, while club favourite Mark LeCras has returned in a training assistant role after a stint at Fremantle as specialist kicking coach. Former midfield development coach Matt Rosa pursued a move into football administration when the pandemic hit and has joined WAFL club Peel Thunder, while forwards development coach and indigenous player mentor Chance Bateman left the club to join integrated services firm Downer as Aboriginal participation manager. – Nathan Schmook
The Dogs were one of the few clubs who kept line coaches on stand down when the season resumed last year, with Jordan Russell (midfield) and Joel Corey (stoppages) not returning to the club. Development coach and flag hero Dale Morris, who was a development coach, was also stood down as senior coach Luke Beveridge worked with a streamlined group on the road in the Queensland hub. Morris works mainly in an off-field role in the Dogs' commercial team. Beveridge also lost rising assistant Daniel Giansiracusa to Essendon in the off-season, seeing the Dogs enter the season with a seven-man panel – Beveridge, assistants Steven King, Rohan Smith and Ash Hansen, development manager Jamie Maddocks, development coach Travis Varcoe and VFL coach Stewart Edge. It is down from the nine they had on deck at the beginning of 2020. – Callum Twomey