THE TASK: Tasmania is a massive chance to be granted the AFL's 19th licence in August. A new team, from scratch. As important as the playing list will be, of equal significance will be the identities chosen in the key leadership posts and the off-field team. This is where the real path to AFL success lies. The people to fill these posts must be the right ones.

Damian Barrett has seen the best, worst and everything in between of football club administration and leadership in the past 30 years. Here, as a potential starter pack for the new team, in identifying his best off-field team of that time he reveals the types of skill-sets the new club will need. Each "successful" candidate in this exercise has been chosen on the peaks of their time in the sport.

President 1: Peggy O'Neal

Calmness at the top. At a club which had lost its way for the best part of 30 years, O'Neal, out of nowhere and with a minimum of fuss and an abundance of class, was able to unite warring parties and awaken a sleeping giant when she took over the Tigers in 2014.

Richmond president Peggy O'Neal celebrates the 2017 premiership at the club's family day on October 1, 2017. Picture: Getty Images

President 2: John Elliott

Arrogance in footy can be a good thing when you're winning. Elliott was old school in that even-then cringey way. Probably wouldn’t last even a month in the job these days. But in the heady 1980s into a large chunk of the '90s, before a lot of it blew up in his and his club's face, this guy's arrogance was a key part of the successful, mesmerising Carlton mystique that every club was – and deep down still is - jealous of.

President 3: Richard Colless

Tough businessman. Always gave the impression he was in control, and found time for everyone. While it was at the Swans where he had most impact, he was also crucial in the establishment of the Eagles.


CEO: Brian Cook

Forever calm, even in crisis. Well publicly, anyway. Two flags while at West Coast, three at Geelong. His financial nous to turn around the Cats transformed not just a club but an entire region. And no one has worked both sides of politics like this guy.

Brian Cook as Geelong CEO at a media conference in 2015. Picture: AFL Photos

Football operations boss 1: Ron Joseph

The Fixer. The Loophole finder. The dealmaker. From helping establish North Melbourne's inaugural premiership team through bending rules and offering old-fashioned cash in brown paper bags, no one pulled off more big deals than this guy. Would regularly blow-up his own relationships with those he worked with, but did nearly everything from a love-of-club base. His genius was most evident when working with Ron Barassi for a second time, at the Swans in 1994. On the day Saint Tony Lockett brutally smashed Peter Caven, an idea formed in Joseph's creative mind: the Swans, the club, and Sydney, the city, needed Lockett. So he somehow had him in Swans colours for the start of the next season.

Football operations boss 2: Graeme Allan

Like Joseph, could find a loophole where none seemed to exist. Leigh Matthews may not have had the extraordinary success as a coach without Gubby mopping up most problems that came the way of Collingwood and Brisbane. So good was he that people who employed him may have had no idea of some of his work behind the scenes. And sometimes on the occasions they may have had an awareness, they soon realised it was probably better that they didn't know too much anyway. Still advising many key people in football.

Graeme Allan celebrates a victory with GWS coach Leon Cameron and players Josh Kelly and Shane Mumford in 2016. Picture: AFL Photos

Media manager: Stephen Brassel

Connections and charm. A highly successful horse racing writer turned into a key plank of the Sydney Swans' operations. Helped the once despised outfit establish a foothold in a city which once couldn't care for it.

Coach: Mick Malthouse

Presence. Authority. At-times scary, even to those he worked with. Three premierships at two clubs was one thing, but his ability to take "ordinary" sides to big outcomes was almost more meritorious. The Bulldogs of '85 (prelim final) and Pies of 2002 (Grand Final) were near-unbelievable results.

Mick Malthouse in action as Collingwood coach in 2002. Picture: AFL Photos

Captain: Wayne Carey

In the 1990s, and quite possibly in the history of football, no one galvanised not just a playing group but a football department, off-field staff, members, supporters, and basically anyone who had a modicum of interest in the blue-and-white, like this guy. Any new team will need a box office drawcard, and no one has played that role better than the king of Friday night footy. 

Vice-captain: Michael Voss

In the sporting context, if you had to go to war, you’d willingly go with this guy, anywhere, anytime, anyway.

Brisbane's Michael Voss celebrates the 2003 premiership. Picture: AFL Photos

'Unofficial' captains: Matthew Scarlett, Campbell Brown

Ask anyone at the amazingly successful Cats from the mid-2000s - if you wanted something signed-off at Geelong, at any level of operations, it needed the nod from Scarlett. Ask anyone who has spent more than three minutes with Brown, no one in in the AFL has had a better "energy" rating.

Fitness boss: Darren Burgess

Cutting edge. Given some of the world's most iconic sports clubs and biggest sports stars regularly seek him out, AFL teams, particularly the Demons in 2021, have been lucky to have access to him.

Darren Burgess at Melbourne training on November 18, 2019. Picture: Getty Images

Mindfulness coach/psychologist: Emma Murray, Phil Jauncey

Murray's extraordinary work with many elite athletes - Dustin Martin is a key client – has been transformational. Re: Jauncey, there were psychologists before him at Brisbane in the late 1990s and there have been many more since. But no one has had more high-end impact.

Major sponsor

Every successful club needs big sponsors. North Melbourne was a trailblazer in the 1970s with its North Have Courage campaign (Courage Lager). Collingwood's Hard Yakka association was also massive.

Runner: David Arnfield

So committed was this guy to Port Adelaide's cause that he actually felt he was a player, and would rarely leave the playing arena. Was actually suspended for such activity.

David Arnfield and Josh Carr during a Port Adelaide clash against Brisbane. Picture:

Recruiters: Greg Miller, Andrew Ireland

Both men held CEO posts at clubs, but their true impact was in identifying and more importantly landing big-name talent. Wayne Carey and John Longmire in the one, blindsiding deal for Miller (along with countless other big deals). And for Ireland, his ability to convince Buddy Franklin to go to Sydney on a nine-year deal and Alastair Lynch to Brisbane on a 10-year contract was extraordinary deal-making.

The 'go-to' journo: Scotty Palmer

For the "necessary" leaks … the most successful clubs have always strategically leaked. No one has ever been able to sell a story harder. Keep punching.

Talent ID/list management: Kinnear Beatson, Stephen Wells

Both proven identifiers of premiership-winning talent over a very long time. Their very best work has been done with the not-so-lucrative draft picks.

Kinnear Beatson with colleagues at the 2016 NAB AFL Draft. Picture: AFL Photos

Doctor(s): The medical team of the early 2000s at Brisbane

It was once prepared to (legally) pump 18 vials of pain-killers into Brisbane Lions players before and during the 2003 Grand Final. 

No.1 ticket holder/celebrity supporters

Irene Chatfield - the Footscray-supporting fan who effectively saved the Bulldogs from a merger with Fitzroy in '89. Malcolm Fraser - prime minister at the time, was the Blues' No.1 ticketholder.

Bulldogs supporter Irene Chatfield carries the 2016 premiership flag with Tony Liberatore in round two, 2017. Picture: AFL Photos

Diehard fan: Ryan Adams

Adams was the six-year-old kid who in 1996 placed a 20c piece in a card and sent it to Chris Grant, telling him he could keep it if he stayed a Dog and rejected Port Adelaide's massive offer.


Scragger at the Bulldogs, Captain Carlton at the Blues.