AFL news 2022: Coach sacked, Ben Rutten at Essendon, Mick McGuane coaching pressure index

It’s not at Ben Rutten levels, but in terms of pressure on his job, Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge might not be far behind, writes Mick McGuane. Here’s why.

Already, two clubs are on the hunt for a new coach this year.

Could there be a third?

Football analyst Mick McGuane takes a look at where each current coach sits on the Coaches’ Pressure Index.

Plus, what has been each club’s best coaching move this year?

And what further moves should be made?


Matthew Nicks (Low)

Contracted until: 2024

The challenge for Nicks and his young Crows is to narrow the gap between their best and worst. They’ve scored wins over Richmond, Port Adelaide and the Western Bulldogs this year but have also suffered five losses by seven goals or more. The other focus area for the Crows is to become more of a front-half team. For that, you need good ball security and Adelaide is prone to butchering the ball by foot. Speed of ball movement going forward isn’t necessarily suiting their team, so going slower at times would help protect turnovers and give defenders a chance to get up the ground and create a tight and compact team defence structure.

Best move they’ve made: Sam Berry going into the midfield has been positive, a spot that was opened up on the back of the Rory Sloane injury. Berry complements fellow onballer Rory Laird well, he competes hard, runs both ways and has laid an impressive 101 tackles this year.

Move I’d like to see made: We’ve seen what Josh Rachele has done as a forward in his first season, but he hasn’t yet had much of a run through the midfield. He has great game sense and the skills to become a money-kick player going inside-50 so Nicks should expose him to chunks of midfield minutes to close out his year.


Chris Fagan (Low)

Contracted until: 2023

The Lions are sitting pretty inside the top-four, but the question mark over them is the fact they have lost games to fellow top-four sides Geelong, Melbourne and Fremantle. Fagan is in his sixth season as coach and game plan hasn’t changed much, with a strong emphasis on contest and territory. The Lions like to take the game on and are aggressive and direct with their ball movement. What Fagan must challenge his side on for the rest of the year is to tighten their defensive structure, with more in-your-face tackling intent on the opposition ball carrier. Against reigning premier Melbourne in Round 15, Brisbane conceded 37 scoring shots which is simply not good enough.

Best move they’ve made: The selection of Keidean Coleman to fill the Grant Birchall role off halfback has been an inspired choice. He is composed, skilful and helps the Lions’ offensive transition with his decision-making and precision ball use through the corridor.

Move I’d like to see made: There have been a lot of question marks over Cam Rayner’s impact as a forward and as a midfielder. He has been inaccurate in front of goal with 15.17 this year. Could he become a swingman weapon? He has great courage in the air and could become a strong interceptor in the back half. I’ve watched him as a junior and he positions himself behind the ball to huge effect. Is he the sleeping interceptor the Lions desperately need?


Michael Voss (Low)

Contracted until: 2024

A strong start to the season under a new coach helped Carlton’s cause to boost morale and kickstart their season. Voss has shown adaptability to change his team from being a side that was very heavily reliant on stoppages in the first six rounds to now being an outfit that also has a strong turnover game. That’s coaching on the run, which gets a big tick. A focus going into the last six games will be tightening up their front-half pressure and team defence, because defending opposition ball movement out of their forward 50 is still a concern.

Best move they’ve made: Investing in the future while winning games. Voss has got games into the likes of Corey Durdin, Matthew Owies, Josh Honey, Matthew Cottrell, Jordan Boyd and Jesse Motlop which will help the team enormously in years to come. The faith Voss has showed in Lochie O’Brien on a wing has also paid off and he’s averaging 17.9 disposals in an important role.

Move I’d like to see made: Hard calls will need to be made at the pointy end of the season if they have a healthy group of players available in the back half. Lachie Plowman has played 12 games this year and Jack Newnes has played 11, but if everyone’s available they won’t make their best 22.


Craig McRae (Low)

Contracted until: 2024

The bolter this season, the Magpies have climbed from 17th place on the ladder last year to sit in sixth spot entering the final six rounds. New coach McRae’s has brought a much more aggressive and go-forward game style. Taking the game on, playing on from marks and attacking through the corridor have all been features of Collingwood’s game this year. However, the Magpies need to find a way to punish opposition sides on the scoreboard more than they currently do. They only rank ninth in the competition for converting possession chains to scores and 12th for scores per inside-50. A fit Jamie Elliott and Jordan De Goey combination in attack will help that though.

Best move they’ve made: Jack Crisp has been a super addition to the midfield as a bigger body around the contest who is also a strong transition runner and complements inside bull Taylor Adams.

Move I’d like to see made: When Brodie Grundy returns from his knee injury, McRae would be derelict in his duty not to play all three talls — Grundy, Mason Cox and Darcy Cameron — at some stage heading into a finals campaign. It might not work, but it also could be a point of difference that the Magpies are looking for.

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Ben Rutten (High)

Contracted until: 2023

It is incumbent on Rutten to keep enforcing high standards and non-negotiables, as well as having great integrity at the selection table. I questioned that earlier in the year when Dylan Shiel was dropped but then wore the medical substitute vest. The Bombers have been the most disappointing team of the year, raising questions around whether Rutten is the right person for the job. In the first half of the season, Essendon’s contest work, stoppage game, pressure and ability to defend opposition ball movement were major areas of concern that needed to be addressed and there has been improvement in those areas since the bye. However, they still need to apply more pressure in their front half and Rutten cannot afford a drop-off in form over the final six weeks.

Best move they’ve made: Jye Caldwell, Ben Hobbs and Archie Perkins rolling through as part of the onball brigade has been a positive because these players are the future. The trio are tough, uncompromising and relish the contest – which have been knocks on Zach Merrett, Darcy Parish and Andy McGrath at times this year.

Move I’d like to see made: Now he’s more match-hardened after an injury-plagued season, Kyle Langford would be worth a try as a big-bodied midfielder. The Bombers have always been a little bit undersized in their midfield group, but Langford could provide a more physical presence if he attended more centre bounces.


Justin Longmuir (Low)

Contracted until: 2024

Longmuir has been the coach of the year so far in my book, with the Dockers climbing from an 11th-placed finish last year to be a top-four team. They have beaten all three fellow top-four sides in Geelong, Melbourne and Brisbane, leaving them well-placed heading into September. Longmuir has got the most out of his two recruits from other clubs in Will Brodie and Jordan Clark, who have both played every game this season. The Dockers play a safe and controlled game, particularly coming out of defensive 50. Their defence ranks No. 1 for opposition scores per inside-50, which is a big tick. But going the other way, the Dockers rank 16th for defensive 50 to inside-50 ball movement, which they will need to make an adjustment to if they are to be a serious challenger come September.

Best move they’ve made: Staying the course with Brodie and not squeezing him out of the midfield to fit in Nat Fyfe when he returned from injury. Brodie has been a shining light as the best clearance player in the team and a strong tackler and defensive runner, something that Fyfe has never excelled at.

Move I’d like to see made: Griffin Logue has the ability to be used as a swingman and should be sent forward more often at certain times. As good a defender as he is, he is also a powerful and aggressive forward and provides a point of difference when he is in attack.


Chris Scott (Low)

Contracted until: 2024

The Cats are just a winning club. Yet again, they find themselves in the top-four at the pointy end of the season. Scott’s defence over attack philosophy has been challenged in finals over recent years and he has adapted this season. Geelong started the year by playing a chaos game in the first seven rounds where they embraced imperfection and trusted their forwards. However, since Round 8 they have gone back to more of a slower, kick-mark game until they get to the launch zone going inside-50. The Cats now have experience playing different two modes, which will hold them in good stead going into September.

Best move they’ve made: The faith Scott has shown in Sam De Koning has been great to see and the talented young defender has grown significantly in a role that has allowed Mark Blicavs to play a variety of roles. The recruitment of Tyson Stengle was a courageous call that has paid dividends, while Tom Atkins’ move into the midfield has also delivered the goods with his ability to bring ferocity and intensity. A midfield cooler like Atkins can be critically important come finals.

Move I’d like to see made: Patrick Dangerfield to play more minutes as a forward. The Cats have got other midfielders in good form and a 60-40 split between midfield and forward looks like the best way to use Dangerfield. When in attack, he is a difficult match up and provides a headaches for opposition defenders.


Stuart Dew (Low)

Contracted until: 2024

The Suns recently decided Dew was the man to take them forward – and rightly so. I did not see them being in the hunt for finals at the start of the year, but they are playing more aggressive and they have become a great territory team. They are happy to get the ball forward with long kicking, they take the game on through the corridor and have a high mark-play-on percentage. However, they must also look to shift the ball off it’s line to ensure better ball security. The way they move the ball inside 50 to their key forwards is a work in progress, though. The Suns rank 17th for scores per inside-50, so lowering their eyes and hitting up targets is something they could work on in the final six games.

Best move they’ve made: It was ballsy to play Jack Lukosius forward at the start of the year and even though he is now injured, that looks worth persisting with. The additions of small forwards like Malcolm Rosas and Hewago Paul Oea have also provided a spark.

Move I’d like to see made: With any eye for the future, it might sound crazy given he has kicked 27 goals for the year, but given who Gold Coast plays in the run home I would consider swinging Levi Casboult to defence considering fellow forward Sam Day has returned. The Suns are still a big monster defender short and Casboult was able to reinvent himself at Carlton when he was moved into defence. Sam Collins can’t do it all and Charlie Ballard’s undersized.


Mark McVeigh (Low)

Contracted until: 2022

McVeigh has only coached seven games so far in a caretaker capacity, for three wins. But what he’s done with the side has been good. The Giants have played with more dare and there looks to be more offensive enjoyment from the players. They have gone from being a bland, kick-down-the-line team under Leon Cameron to now taking risks through the corridor and being an offensive juggernaut. However, he has some serious work to do on the side’s team defence if he is to continue as coach into the future.

Best move they’ve made: Harry Himmelberg has gone from goalkicker to goal-saver this year. It’s been a courageous, positive and innovative move by McVeigh. He brings great intercepting ability, his kicking depth is a real weapon and he has helped re-energise a defence which has been missing Phil Davis for most of the year through injury.

Move I’d like to see made: It’s not so much what move the Giants should make, but more a decision that they need to make on whether Davis earns another contract. He is culturally very good for the group, but another serious hamstring injury has left question marks over whether he is finished in a playing capacity.


Sam Mitchell (Low)

Contracted until: 2023

A first-year coach, Mitchell appears to have given his players creative licence to play their way and attack the game. It’s entertaining bums-on-seats stuff, but the Hawks have probably gone too far and have forgotten about their defensive mechanisms. Going into this pre-season, Mitchell must focus on adding a stronger defensive layer to his side’s game. Hawthorn also has to improve its stoppage game, given it ranks 18th in the competition for clearance differential and 16th for inside-50 differential. They are an efficient side once inside-50 and if they can get it in there more often, they could really hurt opposition sides on the scoreboard.

Best move they’ve made: The midfield group has significantly evolved, with Jai Newcombe playing more of an onball role after bursting onto the scene on a wing last year. Newcombe is averaging 21.6 disposals (8.4 contested) and also brings great pressure and tackling at the coalface.

Move I’d like to see made: It was good to see Dylan Moore spend some more time through the midfield last week and I would be persisting with that. The small forward has the potential to evolve into a breakaway midfielder with his great speed and damaging ball use going forward. He is very good player.


Simon Goodwin (Low)

Contracted until: 2024

The Demons have only used 33 players this year, so they have had a lot of good luck with health. Seven players have played every game including three of their guns in Clayton Oliver, Christian Petracca and Angus Brayshaw. So continuity has not been an issue. It’s time now that we saw Goodwin challenge the players to bring back the manic pressure which was a feature of their premiership campaign last year. Since Round 8, Melbourne ranks 13th in the competition for points from turnovers and pressure at the source is a prerequisite for a good turnover game to function. They are not getting that, given they rank No. 17 for pressure this season. If the Demons want to be a back-to-back premier, their manic pressure must return. It’s as simple as that.

Best move they’ve made: The move of Brayshaw to halfback to cover for the Christian Salem injury at the start of the year was a win-win for the player and team.

Move I’d like to see made: As good as Brayshaw has been down back, I’d like to see him move back into his role on the wing now. Trent Rivers or Jayden Hunt are capable of playing Brayshaw’s role across the halfback and the move would allow Charlie Spargo to drop his part-time wing role and instead play where he is most damaging in the forward 50.


Leigh Adams (Low)

Contracted until: 2022

A premiership coach with South Croydon in the Eastern Football League and a VFL coach with Coburg and North Melbourne over the past five years, Adams has been thrust into the hot seat at the Kangaroos for the final six weeks after the club parted with David Noble. The first priority for Adams is to shore up the defence. Forget about the experiment of playing Ben McKay as a forward. Leave him as a key defender and build your defensive pillars around the best key defender you’ve got on your list. The same goes in the midfield. Todd Goldstein is the best ruckman on the list, so should play as the No. 1 ruckman until someone supersedes him. Adams also needs to implement a simplistic brand because the Kangaroos’ profile in both offence and defence has been a complete mess. Put in place a set of standards and try to master one area at a time.

Move I’d like to see made: Give Callum Coleman-Jones a proper run at it in the last six weeks to see if he can play as a second tall in the forward line and a relief ruckman. Does he want it enough? Is he going to justify the big hype around him after he left Richmond? We will find out.


Ken Hinkley (Low)

Contracted until: 2023

Who would have thought last year’s preliminary finalist was going to start this season 0-5? Not me. Initially it was a serious fall from grace and everyone was questioning where their next win was going to come from. But since the Round 5 loss to Carlton the Power have been one of the form teams of the completion, going 8-3. That has been a testament to the coaching and the changes Hinkley has made to the team. He has steadied the ship and will be coaching in 2023. The midfield group needed a change up and it was addressed. Port’s strong defensive game has returned up and are hard to play against again. At their best, the Power are a strong front-half team due to their defenders pushing up the ground and covering exits which makes it difficult for the opposition to rebound from defence.

Best move they’ve made: Connor Rozee has been a revelation since he was thrown into the midfield in Round 6. He is explosive out of stoppage and he can hit the scoreboard as a goalkicking midfielder. He is in breathtaking form.

Move I’d like to see made: Use the ball better going forward and lower the eyes. Port’s efficiency going inside 50 is still a problem. It needs fixing, as it is currently struggling to capitalise on what looks a quality forward line on paper. It ranks 14th for scores per inside-50 this season.


Damien Hardwick (Low)

Contracted until: 2024

The Tigers have had a good year, but they’ve lost their way a little bit at times when the opposition has come at them and poor discipline hasn’t helped. But with their best personnel, they are capable of beating any team in the competition given the way they play. They are one of the most exciting teams to watch with the way they embrace a chaos game style. They go forward with the ball by handball or foot as they trust their forwards and are predictable to each other. The Tigers, regularly play on from marks to put speed on the game and are still a powerful outfit in offence. However, the issue Hardwick would want to tidy up is what his side does without the footy. Richmond ranks 13th for opposition scores per inside-50, which won’t win you too many finals.

Best move they’ve made: The introduction of Jayden Short into the midfield caught everyone by surprise, given he was a best-and-fairest in 2020 in defence where he had spent most of his career to date. But he has not let his coach down and is averaging 25.6 disposals this season. The use of the versatile Liam Baker in all three areas of the ground has also delivered fantastic results.

Move I’d like to see made: With Noah Balta returning and Tom Lynch out injured, the temptation would be high to play the young key position star forward to support Jack Riewoldt. That’s more than likely to occur but the Tigers look much better when he is a part or their backline to support Robbie Tarrant, Dylan Grimes and Nick Vlaustin.


Brett Ratten (Low)

Contracted until: 2024

Nothing much has changed with the Saints, who recently extended Ratten’s contract by two years. At their best, they can beat anyone. But it all comes back to their intensity at the contest and their intent to apply great pressure. When that pressure drops, their defensive mechanisms fall away and their back six gets exposed. They need to realise that without pressure, they’re merely an ordinary team. When they do apply great pressure, they generate turnovers which allows them to get the ball quickly into their key forwards in Max King, Tim Membrey and Rowan Marshall. However, since Round 10 they have been scored against far too easily, rank last in the competition for opposition scores per inside 50.

Best move they’ve made: The adaptability to use Jack Sinclair off halfback or through the midfield this year has been an ace up Ratten’s sleeve. He is clearly in the All-Australian conversation. The move of Josh Battle back into defence to support Dougal Howard and Callum Wilkie has also been a productive decision.

Move I’d like to see made: Turn up the heat on the small forwards – the likes of Jack Higgins, Dan Butler, Jade Gresham and Ben Long. Those four players need to understand that the goals they kick will come on the back of great defensive workrate and if it’s not them kicking goals, other teammates will.


John Longmire (Low)

Contracted until: 2023

The challenge for Longmire is to try and eradicate the little periods within games that are costing the Swans dearly. They are badly losing critical contests for 15 or 20-minute patches within matches and it’s cost them games. It has been a fairly simple formula for Sydney – when their contested ball numbers are high, they win games of footy. When they get beaten badly in contested ball, they lose. That said, I love the way Longmire has regenerated this playing group with a lot of youth and vitality. Chad Warner is going to be one of the best midfielders in the competition in two or three years’ time, Gulden provides plenty for the team as a high half-forward or wing, Oliver Florent and James Rowbottom can go through the midfield and Will Hayward is underrated.

Best move they’ve made: Paddy McCartin has been one of the stories of the year in defence. He has reinvented himself and his career on the back of the faith shown by John Longmire and the Sydney medical staff and the foresight to take the pressure off him being a forward and switch roles to join his brother in defence.

Move I’d like to see made: When Peter Ladhams returns from his thumb injury, I’d take another look at how he can work together as a ruck combination with Tom Hickey. If it doesn’t work, the Swans could instead look to use Hayden McLean as their relief ruck.


Adam Simpson (Low)

Contracted until: 2024

It’s been tough for the Eagles and Simpson, who would have been pulling his hair out not knowing what team he would have week to week. It is so hard to adhere to an AFL game style when you have significant numbers of players coming in and out of your system each week. It’s hard for Simpson to be challenged on what style would suit this list, given its troubles. But since Round 10 the side’s game has looked a little more cohesive after a woeful first half of the year.

Best move they’ve made: The Eagles have persevered through their availability issues and have unearthed players for the future like Patrick Naish, Connor West and Jamaine Jones. They know that they have an ageing list and retirements loom for Shannon Hurn and Josh Kennedy.

Move I’d like to see made: West Coast’s contest work has long been a weak point and it has remained that way this year. They rank last for contested possession differential and 17th for clearance differential. Some major adjustments need to be made if the side is to climb back up the ladder next year.


Luke Beveridge (Medium)

Contracted until: 2023

It was the strangest of starts to the season for Beveridge, highlighted by the blow up at journalist Tom Morris. Then he was playing Tom Liberatore – the club’s best clearance player – in the forward line and not where he belongs in the centre bounce at the start of the year. When you want to build momentum and collect wins early in the season to build morale and trust, it was a bizarre move and last year’s grand finalists ended up starting the year 1-3. The Bulldogs also only played one ruckman in Tim English early in the year, overlooking Jordon Sweet to assist. Is Sweet good enough? Until you play him, you never know. On their game style, the Bulldogs have continued as a high-volume team that likes to work the ball from inside to outside and get the ball into an undersized forward line quickly. The attacking end needs some work, but their team defence is more a concern. They are leaking scores far too easily.

Best move they’ve made: Ed Richards to halfback has been a good move. He provides run and rebound out of defence, but the one question mark is whether he defends life and death like you have to in the back half?

Move I’d like to see made: Get some games into your future forward line stars in the run home. Jamarra Ugle-Hagan should play the final six games, which will give him something to build on next year. Sam Darcy could also be entertained to make a debut at some point given his strong VFL form. Even one game for Darcy could be an invaluable lesson heading into pre-season to understand what’s required at AFL level.

Originally published as Mick McGuane: Every AFL coach’s year rated, plus where they sit on the Coaching Pressure Index AFL news 2022: Coach sacked, Ben Rutten at Essendon, Mick McGuane coaching pressure index

Nate Jones

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