Which AFL Coaches Are Under The Most Pressure Heading Into 2022?
It’s November, and while we’re fully aware of the ‘They’re resting- Please leave the coaches alone’ signs scattered throughout park, we’re respectfully choosing to ignore them.
While this is a time of the year when the league’s 18 head honchos are working on their 2022 game-plans and reacquainting themselves with their families, it doesn’t mean they’re immune from scrutiny.
Today we’re highlighting the five coaches who’ll enter next season under the most pressure, and in some cases could be fighting for their careers. And while sure, that might sound a bit morbid for the off-season, like the coaches, we’ve also got work to do and analysis to conduct.
And with that said, let’s get to it.
Gold Coast’s Stuart Dew entered the league’s coaching ranks with massive wraps serving a 7-year apprenticeship under John Longmire in Sydney and during a period the Swans enjoyed immense success.
Unfortunately his four seasons in charge of the Suns have been considerably underwhelming, and unless his fifth doesn’t show significant improvement his days as a senior coach at the highest level will be numbered.
In many ways Dew is lucky to still have a job, and had Alastair Clarkson decided to take his talents to South-East Queensland he’d most certainly be gone.
All four seasons in charge of Gold Coast have resulted in bottom-5 finishes with his most recent accompanied by the indignity of having the worst attack in the entire league and which averaged a miserable 56.3 points over the team’s final 11 games. His overall 23.4% win record is the league’s second worst among active coaches and is the worst in Gold Coast’s short history.
What didn’t help the Suns this season was losing their ruckman and captain Jarrod Witts while suffering from yet another interrupted Matt Rowell campaign. Lack of access to these two instrumental midfield figures meant the club ranked dead last for hit-out differential, second last for clearance differential and bottom-3 for both disposal and inside-50 differential.
Fun Fact- 0-18. That’s Dew’s record against top-4 opposition over his 4-year tenure.
One of football’s most likeable coaches, and perhaps one of its best.
Unfortunately however Brett Ratten will enter season 2022 as the most scrutinised coach in Melbourne owing to St Kilda’s dreadful 2021 campaign coupled with the spectre of Alastair Clarkson’s availability.
In 2020 and in Ratten’s first full season in charge at Moorabbin he helped end an 8-season September drought at the club, electrifying a team who first knocked out the Dogs in an elimination final and pushed Richmond a week later in the semis.
Despite an unforgiving fixture and a pesky injury list the Saints didn’t come close to reaching the heights of 2020 spending 22 of the league's 23 rounds this season on the outside looking in when it came to a top-8 spot.
This season the Saints slipped form 4th to 12th in points per game despite actually narrowly improving their total disposal and marks inside-50 differential while also posting a positive number from an insider-50 differential point of view.
Fun Fact- Over the last two seasons no club has played more games against both top-4 and top-8 opposition than St Kilda, meanwhile their 1-5 home and away record in games decided by less than a goal is the game’s worst since the start of 2020.
In 2021, perhaps no club performed as poorly against pre-season expectations than the Eagles with their AFL-best 6-straight seasons of finals coming to an end.
While missing September action needn’t be a referendum on Simpson’s tenure, after all he’s a premiership winning coach with a scorching 62.9% win rate, this season followed a sharp pattern of decline, with the Eagles falling markedly since claiming that 2018 flag.
And a significant portion of blame for West Coast’s malaise ought to lie at the feet of their coach who has failed to shift from a game-plan that once worked brilliantly for his club but which is now routinely being exposed by superior opposition.
What makes matters a little more complicated is that Simpson still has three seasons to go on his current contract while the best players on his list are either in the twilight of their career or about to soon approach it. Meanwhile their very best player, Nic Natanui, is set to become an unrestricted free agent further muddying the waters of this highly decorated club.
Fun Fact- The Eagles have played 35 seasons of AFL football, yet season 2021 ranked 30th from the perspective of their lowly 93.1 percentage.
Chris Scott enjoys a 72% home and away win rate which just happens to be (checks notes) the best in the history of the game among coaches with at least 100 matches in the hot seat.
Unfortunately, Scott’s probably more known for his routine September failings, with his finals win rate sitting at just 40% which ranks equal 51st among the 54 coaches who have won a premiership.
What makes things so perplexing is that Chris Scott is both the absolute best coach for Geelong and perhaps its biggest problem. His capacity to keep the Cats in the premiership window is spectacular yet his lack of innovation come finals time has meant Geelong has left a staggering amount of meat on the bone since 2011.
And this past season was a perfect example of that with the Cats coming within a Max Gawn kick of winning the minor premiership yet were massacred to the tune of 83-points by the Demons weeks later in the preliminary final.
Like Adam Simpson, Chris Scott’s contract runs through 2024, and like Simpson’s employers, Geelong would be asking themselves daily whether there’s a better candidate out there and who’d be capable of taking their list any further.
Fun Fact- Since 2018, Geelong are 3-17 when trailing at three-quarter time and this year were one of just two teams who failed to win a single game when behind at the final break.
Is it possible to be under pressure having just got the the job? Sure it is.
While Michael Voss will be the 9th individual to lead Carlton since the year 2000, his recent appointment didn’t make for routine Blue’s business considering the club isn’t in total rebuilding mode and feels it should be playing finals, with the expectation Voss immediately helps the club realise those goals.
Unlike David Teague, Brendan Bolton and Brett Ratten before him Voss does have experience as a senior coach leading the Brisbane Lions for five seasons between 2009 and 2013 before serving brilliantly as Ken Hinkley’s right hand man in Port Adelaide over the last six seasons.
Voss didn’t win his new gig by accident and likely has very clear ideas about how to get the Blues over the hump, yet you can be sure the shadows will quickly appear over Princes Park should his team fail to take off in the early rounds of 2022.
Fun Fact- Since 2000 Carlton have ranked bottom-3 in both tackles and clearance differential just twice. In 2018 when they finished last with a 2-20 record and this past season where they missed finals for the 16th time in the last 20 seasons.
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