The day his good mate Brenton Sanderson was sacked as coach of the Crows, the volatility of his chosen – albeit somewhat accidental – profession “hit home” for Geelong mentor Chris Scott.
Scott, opening up in a lengthy analysis of the coaching trade in conversation with Pickstar’s Off-Field podcast, concedes he never wanted to be a senior coach.
“I didn’t [even] want to be an assistant coach – I just got an offer and I accepted it because I thought if I don’t do it then I’ll never know whether I could have done it, whether I would have been good at it,” he said.
It was a similar trajectory to that of his twin brother Brad, who preceded him into senior coaching but is yet to taste the premiership success that Chris achieved with his first year at the Cats’ helm.
“My brother, funnily enough, was appointed the head coach at North Melbourne after only two and a half years at Collingwood,” he said.
“He didn’t really think he was ready to be a senior coach, only two and a half years in, but the opportunity presented.”
Geelong under two-time premiership mentor Mark ‘Bomber’ Thompson was a breeding ground for future senior coaches – one of whom Scott contentiously beat to the top job at the Cats.
“I was very close with Brenton Sanderson, who was assistant coach at Geelong when I arrived… but he only coached a year with me because he got the head job at the Adelaide Crows the next year,” Scott recalled.
Sando got sacked today, one day I’ll be coming home saying the same thing
It was an appointment that appeared inspired at first, with Adelaide narrowly losing a preliminary final to the Hawks in his debut season. But two years of middling finishes followed, and the club’s board sensationally lost patience.
“When he finished at the Crows, I came home… my wife Sarah doesn’t really get into footy, she certainly not scrawling through the AFL website keeping up with the latest news, but I came home the day he finished and I said ‘oh Sando’ – to use a word I hate – ‘Sando was sacked today’.
“I just used the word that they use in the media… I might have been a bit more harsh than that, I might have said ‘Sando got sacked today, one day I’ll be coming home saying the same thing’. And she got a bit emotional about it… she kind of started tearing up a little bit, just a little bit more edgy than she would normally be around those sorts of comments.
“But it sort of hit home that, look, it’s not personal.
“I came to grips with it a long time ago that I’ll finish at some point, but… there’s such a thing as finishing on good terms. It doesn’t always have to be acrimonious.
“Most of the time I think it is, unfortunately, [but] I think the industry is slowly coming round to the idea that it doesn’t have to be that way.”
LISTEN: Hear Chris Scott’s broader thoughts about the coaching caper and the modern game across two podcasts:
Scott, part of the Brisbane Lions team that dominated the competition in the early-2000s says he hasn’t had a break from football since being drafted as a 17-year-old.
“The idea of finishing in your forties and having to find a way to support your family is a bit kind of – yeah a little bit,” he muses cryptically.
The Port process was so involved and I felt like I needed to think twice about whether to go through that again
“You can prepare as much as possible – I think I’m relatively rounded – but in terms of on the job experience, I would have to try to relate how AFL experience would impact a new job as opposed to real on-the-job training.”
Incredibly though, he believes “the best way will be to finish before my daughter gets to school, based on what I’ve heard from other coaches”.
“My wife’s really resilient, and has a big circle of friends that probably wouldn’t even be aware if I got the flick, they’re sort of outside the football world.
“We’ve got plenty of people inside the football world as well [but] there are a number of people that I know and respect within the footy industry that have almost been, not driven out, but have been left with a bad taste in their mouth because of the way their kids in particular have been treated.
“Kids in particular can be quite brutal… especially in, say, a two-team town like Adelaide or Perth. The kids are kind of like, stories like ‘hey when’s your dad going to get the sack and what are you going to do when your family’s unemployed’.”
One thing Scott maintains was a pivotal experience in his eventual premiership success at Geelong was a failed audition for the senior role at Port Adelaide, after the Power parted ways with long-time coach Mark Williams in 2010, eventually replacing him with favourite son Matthew Primus.
Scott was serving his apprenticeship at Fremantle, and was heavily touted as a likely contender.
“Port made a coaching change early in the year, so I had this long period of time to work through this detailed process… they ended up appointing an internal candidate but from what I understand, I was one of a shortlist of probably around one hundred – which is not that short,” he said.
“And slowly over a period of time, it was whittled down to the point where I looked around and thought: ‘There actually aren’t that many left!’
“And I was going through it, to be brutally honest, for the experience. Because I had no idea how to go about it or what was involved and I was really raw.”
But he insists now: “I wouldn’t have got the Geelong job if I didn’t go through that process with Port.”
“If nothing else, it was just good practice.”
He said understanding that one presentation didn’t make or break your application was pivotal – “it was more getting to know who you are and what you value”.
“And, long story story, with the Geelong part, I was under the impression – which really helped me – that they were going to appoint an internal candidate as well,” he said.
“And my – I say my manager, he’s sort of a friend who was helping me at the time – I’m not even sure I paid him, but he was the one who got the approach from Geelong and I really pressed him to say ‘look, is this a waste of time because the Port process was so involved’ and, you know, I felt like I needed to think twice if I’m going to go through that again. “Geelong was a bit unique in that their coach decided to finish at the end of the year, after the final series, and it was a bit of a race against time to get someone in the seat.
“So they only had four candidates, the other three were internal and it was really, really short.”
His ‘manager’ assured him the Cats were serious.
“He really, really pressed them. He had a good relationship with Neil [Balme, former Geelong football manager] and he really pressed and said ‘unless you’re serious, I don’t think you should put this young guy through it’.
“They first spoke to me on a Sunday and appointed me on the Friday.”
Pickstar’s Off-Field podcast is hosted by Andrew Montesi and James Begley, whose Rooster Radio podcast is published regularly on InDaily.
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