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The Age

Worsfold a wanted man again

Author: GREG BAUM
Date: 16/10/2001
Words: 702
          Publication: The Age
Section: Sport
Page: 2
As a player, John Worsfold was a wanted man in the same way that Ned Kelly, Al Capone and Jack the Ripper were wanted. As a coach, Worsfold is wanted in the sense of needed. Seemingly, two jobs are his for the asking, and the fact that both are in his home town makes it all the intriguing.

His interview with Fremantle lasted nine hours, which is just about longer than some StKilda coaches last in the job. West Coast spent less time on him, but as he played for all of the club's first 12years and captained for eight - including both its premiership seasons - it ought to understand better than any his combination of on-field savagery and off-field civilisation, and whether it would make a good coach.

The question of whether Worsfold is ready has been answered. Both Perth clubs think he is, and so does Carlton, where for the last two years he has been one of a team of celebrated assistants. Worsfold chose Carlton because it was single-minded about success, was away from Perth and because David Parkin, Wayne Brittain, Stephen Kernahan and Greg Williams could give him a first-class crash course in the arts and pitfalls of coaching. At 33, he is young, but coaching increasingly is a young man's game.

Collingwood coach Mick Malthouse, who made Worsfold captain of West Coast at 22 and shared with him an era in which the Eagles were never out of the finals, thinks Worsfold is ready, not least because he has opportunities now that might not arise again for several years.

Worsfold's appointment at Carlton was sprung on then coach Parkin, and his role was low-key. This season, under Brittain, he has been responsible for the most parsimonious back line in the competition, conceding only 80points a game. His abiding philosophy is team and club; he insists that players must give up the pursuit of individual goals and rewards for the team's gain. He won only one best-and-fairest award as a player.

Reportedly, Worsfold is not a coach to rant and rave; like the best coaches, he has a reputation that rants and raves for him.

Worsfold has impressed widely at Carlton with his willingness to engage media, sponsors and fans, even to the point of good-natured banter about some of the atrocities of his playing days. He understood that football clubs were no longer just about football. Only towards the end of this season, when the questions were more about him than Carlton, did he retreat.

Reportedly, he was just as committed to the entirety of the club when he was West Coast captain, which partly explains why he is so appealing to the Eagles now at a time when they need all the friends they can get.

Worsfold will have to choose delicately if indeed he has to make a choice. West Coast doubtlessly will appeal because the club is so much a part of him, but it might be too familiar. What, for instance, would Worsfold do about Glen Jakovich, once his partner on the best half-back line, now in serious and sad decline, but still on a lucrative contract? Hiring and firing footballers is an even more fraught business in Perth than in Melbourne; in the smaller pool, the fish look proportionately bigger.

Already, some fans in Perth are protesting at the idea that West Coast might not appoint Worsfold. But favorite sons have a poor record as coaches; they know where too many of the skeletons are and sometimes want success too badly. That said, it is not as if Worsfold would be out of sight and mind at Fremantle, the only other AFL club for 2000kilometres.

Nonetheless, Fremantle surely makes more appeal. It won fewer games than West Coast this year, but it was mostly competitive, whereas West Coast lost by an average of nearly 10goals, and seven times by more than 80points.

Fremantle's new management has recruited more aggressively, its list is younger and its immediate prospects look much brighter.

Worsfold will be acutely aware that first-time coaches who fail rarely get a second chance. He may never face a tougher selection decision.

 
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