ken AFL

Under the Pump: Is your team’s coach under pressure?

In an arena of constant criticism, misdirection and expectation, life as an AFL coach is challenging. From the internal management of players, staff and gameplay to the external expectation to lead your club into a position where they can win a premiership, the pressure an AFL coach faces is immense. With Round two only one day away, Straya Sports will look into what coaches are under the pump and what coaches are not in season 2023.


1) Ken Hinkley

Club: Port Adelaide

Estimated salary: 600,000 dollars

Years left on contract: 1

Since Hinkley’s inception as head coach in 2013, Port Adelaide have played finals five times (three preliminary finals), however; have not played a grand final. Instead, Port Adelaide have settled for mediocrity. Excluding the five seasons in which Port Adelaide played in the finals (under Hinkley), the Power have finished ninth once, tenth three times and eleventh once (last season). As such, with only one year left on his contract, there is a mounting pressure for Hinkley to elicit greater success out of his capable team, otherwise he likely faces termination. While Port Adelaide impressed in Round one against a formidable Brisbane side, the Power and specifically Hinkley face magnificent pressure to perform. This is amplified by the bubble of South Australian sport, where fans are like a pack of agitated Pitbulls when the season is on. They are the symbol of a love-hate relationship. Subsequently, if Hinkley wants to coach another season, now more than ever will his side need be successful.

2) Chris Fagan

Club: Brisbane

Estimated salary: ?

Years left on contract: 2

Brisbane have arguably the greatest list in the competition. When your club possesses the likes of Neale, McCluggage, Daniher, Hipwood, Cameron, Andrews, Dunkley, Rich and Ashcroft, one would think little can go awry. However, for Fagan, who has coached for the past seven years, this season may be his last opportunity to extract success out of his capable team. After becoming coach in 2016, Fagan helped rebuild Brisbane, finishing no higher than 15th in his first three years. Since this point Brisbane have finished in the top four three times and sixth once (last season). Unfortunately, despite Fagan’s apparent success, his kryptonite has been finals. In 2019 Brisbane finished second but lost in consecutive finals. In 2020, Brisbane finished second again, but were convincingly defeated by Geelong. In 2021, Brisbane finished fourth, yet lost again in straight sets. Then, in 2022, Brisbane looked a commanding side in finals, until they were once again decimated by Geelong in the preliminary final by 71-points. Consequently, if Fagan is unable to obtain success out of the stellar list he has and ultimately dominate a finals series, it is likely the club will search for a replacement.

3) Michael Voss

Club: Carlton

Estimated salary: 600,000 dollars

Years left on contract: 2

Pretenders. A constant word used by football critics. Who is a pretender, who is a genuine premiership threat. For me, Carlton is the epitome of this word. Last season the Blues had positioned themselves perfectly for a potential finals birth, however; lost five of their last six matches and missed out. Carlton have not played finals since 2013. Despite their relatively strong list, they have an inability to beat stronger sides and win the big match games. Although this may not necessarily be coaching errors, the grand nature of Carlton as a football club and the powerhouse which they are, means if they are failing with the side they possess, Voss will be subject to increasing pressures.

4) Luke Beveridge

Club: Western Bulldogs

Estimated salary: 575,000 dollars

Years left on contract: 3

Luke Beveridge has been a phenomenal since he became coach in 2015. He has led the Dogs to two grand final appearances and broke their 62-year long premiership drought in 2016. Unfortunately for Beveridge, his playing group is not as strong as what it was when the Bulldogs made these two grand finals. With a lack of goal kicking ability and defensive reassurance, the Western Bulldogs immediate future is bleak. Further, Beveridge is in his ninth season as coach and therefore if he leads the Dogs to a season of average football, with few exciting young prospects, his tenure as coach may come to an end.

5) Adam Simpson

Club: West Coast

Estimated salary: 800,000 – 900,000 dollars

Years left on contract: 2

Adam Simpson is a premiership coach. While this statement is true, it seems this is where the list of Simpson’s coaching successes will end. A one-time premiership coach. With a weak list, West Coast appear as if they will not eclipse lasts seasons ordinariness, where they missed the wooden spoon by percentage ascendancy, finishing seventeenth. In Round one, West Coast lost to North Melbourne, who last year won only two games. As I sat in my car and listened to SEN’s coverage of the match, I could not help but agree with the commentators scathing review of West Coast. “You cannot play two quarters of football and expect to roll sides… West Coast are no longer talented enough to just rock up and beat teams… Adam Simpson needs to inspire his team,” the commentators passionately explained. However, this inspiration is increasingly hard to generate, particularly with an older list, who have experienced so much success in their respective careers. Further, similar to Adelaide, Perth’s football climate, is a bubble of fans who maintain the expectation that when your team play, they will win. Anything less is failure. And if you contribute to this failure, you should leave. As such, if Simpson has another poor season, he may face the harsh criticism of Perth’s dome and lose his job.

6) Stewart Dew

Club: Gold Coast

Estimated salary: 800,000 dollars

Years left on contract: 2

Gold Coast have not played a final under Stewart Dew. In fact, Gold Coast have never played a final. Although Dew appears to be shifting the notion of football in Gold Coast and making his club appetising for current and incoming players, the Suns lack of success, means Dew could face the same fate as his predecessors.

7) Matthew Nicks

Club: Adelaide

Estimated salary: ?

Years left on contract: 2

Matthew Nicks has coached the Crows for two seasons. As a general rule, it takes three seasons to identify whether a coach has made substantial change. Whether that be through list management, culture or results, typically this time frame suggests a coach’s effectiveness. Although Nicks has two years left on his contract, it is integral Adelaide improve from last season, where they finished fourteenth. Despite the Crows young list, critics will expect Nicks to develop his young players and help his club become a genuine premiership threat. Unfortunately, after Round one’s loss to Greater Western Sydney, it appears Adelaide likely face being average once again, which means Nicks’ future as coach will inevitably be examined.

8) Brad Scott

Club: Essendon

Estimated salary: 800,000 dollars

Years left on contract: 4

Essendon have made it abundantly clear Brad Scott is their man. They have given Scott a four-year contract in which he is expected to achieve what none of the past coaches at Essendon have done in the last nineteen seasons… win a final. I hold great faith in Scott’s coaching ability as he proven himself at North Melbourne, leading his side to two preliminary finals. However, Essendon’s management of players and coaches has continually demonstrated that they cannot be trusted. Similarly, as opinionated football commentator Kane Cornes regularly points out, Essendon enjoy “empty words”. They say one thing, but their actions say another. Therefore, it is not Brad Scott’s coaching I fear, it is the players and management around him, which could potentially lead to his demise.

9) Justin Longmuir

Club: Fremantle

Estimated salary: 600,000 dollars

Years left on contract: 2

Fremantle were impressive last season. After becoming a mediocre side over the past five seasons and not playing finals, Longmuir’s establishment as head coach in 2022 led to immediate success. Fremantle finished fifth last season and defeated several quality sides. While narrowly losing in the first final to the Western Bulldogs, Fremantle’s finals experience will prove invaluable for upcoming seasons. Longmuir’s greatest challenge will be to replicate last seasons excellence and specifically continue to upset teams when playing outside of Perth.

10) Ross Lyon

Club: Saint Kilda

Estimated salary: ?

Years left on contract: 3

Ross the boss! It is almost an injustice to have Lyon at tenth as he has led multiple teams to grand finals (Saint Kilda and Fremantle). However, having not coached since 2019 it will be interesting to observe how Lyon adapts to the AFL’s continual evolution. Fortunately for Lyon, he is in his grace period, in which clubs determine whether Lyon is the catalyst for success. Arguably Lyon’s greatest pressure will be internal. With a strong list and a great combination of young and mature players, if Lyon can generate inspiration within his side and create consistent form, he will alleviate any potential pressure as coach. On the contrary, if Saint Kilda continue to play mediocre football and lead their way to another mundane season where they cannot win a final, Lyon will be scrutinised.

11) Sam Mitchell

Club: Hawthorn

Estimated salary: 600,000 – 800,000 dollars

Years left on contract:

Similar to Greater Western Sydney, Hawthorn has the youngest list in the competition. Subsequently, they are expected to finish comfortably outside the top eight. However, as Mitchell is still in his infancy as coach, the club has demonstrated they have faith in him to lead Hawthorn’s rebuild. Nonetheless, if Hawthorn are unable to generate any success in season 2023, there are inevitable voices who will call for change. Fortunately for Mitchell and Hawthorn, their youth is exciting and therefore by producing upset wins throughout the season, Hawthorn will continue to show faith in the proclaimed prodigy coach.

12) Adam Kingsley

Club: Greater Western Sydney

Estimated salary: 550,000 dollars

Years left on contract: 3

While Greater Western Sydney are expected to be one of the weaker sides this season, their recent injection of youth to the side will alleviate much of the Kingsley’s pressure, as critics will be more understanding and accepting of poor performances. Moreover, Kingsley being a first-year coach will mean he will be afforded a period of time to achieve success. Therefore, despite club performance, the circumstances Kingsley is in will mean he has security in his role as coach.

13) Damien Hardwick

Club: Richmond

Estimated salary: 900,000 – 1,000,000 dollars

Years left on contract: 2

Clarkson, Longmire, Scott. These are the names of the premier coaches in the modern era. The missing name in this list is Hardwick. Despite the Tigers mediocre season last year riddled with injury and poor gameplay, Richmond is expected to push for the premiership this season. Having recruited well (picking up the likes of Hopper and Tarranto), Hardwick could add to his premiership tally this season. Alike the other stalwart coaches, Hardwick has proved himself as coach and therefore demands greater job security, particularly given Richmond are poised for success this season.

14) Alastair Clarkson

Club: North Melbourne

Estimated salary: 1,200,000 million

Years left on contract: 5

While coaching arguably one of the least promising teams in the competition, Clarkson has developed a resume which propels him to be in conversation as to whether he is the greatest coach of all time. As such, due to Clarkson’s coaching calibre he faces little pressure, as North Melbourne are expected to do poorly and as a result any Clarkson genius, which he can elicit from his players will leave Clarkson in a position immune to scrutiny.

15) John Longmire

Club: Sydney

Estimated salary: 1,000,000 – 1,200,000 dollars

Years left on contract: 2

There are very few coaches, who face termination after making a grand final. While Sydney were embarrassed in the grand final, they were one of the premier sides in the competition all season. Having coached the club to one premiership (2012) and four grand finals (2012, 2014, 2016, 2022), Longmire continuously succeeds. Since his inception in 2011, Longmire has missed one finals series. While winning only one premiership in the past 11 years Sydney have arguably been one of the best sides (if not the best) in the competition. Therefore, Longmire needs to receive respect and a consensus that he can elicit success out of his players. Longmire’s primary challenge in 2023, will be to avoid a grand final hangover and instead seek redemption with his array of upcoming young guns such as Gulden, Warner and McCartin.

16) Craig McCrae

Club: Collingwood

Estimated salary: 500,000-600,000 dollars

Years left on contract: 2

One of biggest surprises in the competition was Collingwood’s resurgence in the top eight. Much of this resurgence is credited to Craig McCrae’s ability to connect his squad and develop a bonding relationship. In 2022, McCrae was depicted as a god-like figure. He encouraged his team to play an exciting brand of football and fostered an attitude within his side to never give up. In a post-Buckley era, McCrae has a list ready to flourish and attempt to recreate last seasons success. After losing in the preliminary final last season to Sydney by only one point, McCrae will be expected to restore his sides newly found status as a premier side. While this will be difficult, if Collingwood can generate a series of wins, McCrae will avoid scrutiny as he has already proved himself last season.

17) Simon Goodwin

Club: Melbourne

Estimated salary: 1,000,000 dollars

Years left on contract: 2

Track record: 1 premiership,

After winning a premiership only two seasons ago and the side to win another one, Goodwin is set for another stress-free season from the media watchdogs. The only moderate pressure Goodwin will encounter is ensuring his club evades another year of straight set defeats in the final series. Fortunately, when your club possesses a Rolls Royce (Christian Petracca), Porche (Clayton Oliver) and Ram (Steven May) in your carport, Goodwin’s list is again superior to most clubs. If Goodwin can manage his players to a similar standard to any of his previous years, and facilitate Brody Grundy and Max Gawn’s co-existence, he will once again be in great stead to be holding a piece of silverware come September.

18) Chris Scott

Club: Geelong

Estimated Salary: 1,000,000 dollars

Years left on contract: 2

Chris Scott is arguably the second greatest coach in the modern era, behind only Alastair Clarkson. Since his inception in 2011 Scott has led the club to three grand finals (2011, 2020, 2022), as well as 2 Premierships (2011 and 2022). He has also been involved in several preliminary finals, having missed only one finals series since he became coach. As a reigning premier and with the resume Scott has compiled, he faces little pressure this season. Further, through Geelong’s premier recruitment, to complement the likes of Cameron, Dangerfeild, Hawkins and Stewart, he will likely be in contention for yet another premiership. Therefore, is one of the coaches who has a secure future.

Third year journalism student, with a passion for Australian sport.

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