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The good, the bad and the ugly of AFL succession plans

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20.09.2019

If Toby Greene is the footballer who divides the AFL community like no other then this week coaching succession planning is the topic.

Depending on who you talk to, Essendon have pulled off a strategic coup of diplomatic proportions or the Bombers have been soft in their failure to make the tough call on the coach.

But on any examination of the club's recent history since Kevin Sheedy was given his marching orders in 2007, the decision to honour John Worsfold's contract while simultaneously anointing Ben Rutten as his successor speaks of an Essendon that look truly determined to embrace cultural change.

Essendon coach John Worsfold.Credit:AAP

Worsfold might have frustrated his staff, highly factional supporter base and even his players at times with his relatively passive empowering style. But he has helped deliver stability and two top-eight finishes in four seasons to a football club that was torn and the decision to stick with him reflects his influence.

And the Worsfold-Rutten handover is as good an introduction as any to reflect upon one 2019 preliminary finalist and - despite an early obstacle - its successful succession plan. And we're not talking about the impressive evolution of Nathan Buckley.

If Sydney remain the prototype for succession planning it is worth remembering that in late 2009, the same year Paul Roos and John Longmire announced their football Kirribilli agreement, the then embryonic Giants came into the world with a handover strategy of their own.

At the Swans the coach Longmire, CEO Tom Harley and chairman Andrew Pridham are all in their roles as a result of long-term succession plans. And Harley appointed football boss Charlie Gardiner in the firm belief he was a future AFL club chief.

But the AFL's youngest club, Saturday's preliminary finalist Greater Western Sydney, was born on the back of a succession strategy. Kevin Sheedy to Mark Williams looked to be an inspired handover plan but it all fell apart when Giants bosses Dave Matthews and Graeme Allan realised that they could not reconcile Williams' exuberant leadership, brilliant teaching skills and deep love of the game with his turbulent management style and lack of patience.

Back when ... Mark Williams (centre) at the Giants.

So Williams, who took on the job believing he would coach the club alone from 2012, instead read the writing on the wall and departed for Richmond. The Giants replaced him with Leon Cameron. Sheedy fronted the club as coach for an extra........

© Brisbane Times