Courtesy: The Guardian

Mick McGuane’s Gentle Art of Coaching

AFL News, AFLFA News | 2 comments

Written by Jason Gregory

Collingwood champion Mick McGuane is responsible for one of the greatest individual sporting acts in VFL/AFL history: the 1994 AFL Goal of the Year kicked in a blockbuster against Carlton.

In a magical 19 seconds, the mid-fielder took the ball from a centre square bounce, skirted towards the flank boundary, bounced seven times, baulked two tackle attempts and kicked truly on the run from 30m.

For a few years, McGuane was in the very top echelon of AFL players. He stepped out 152 times for Collingwood from 1987-96. He is a premiership player, was twice named Collingwood’s Best and Fairest, a club vice-captain and All-Australian.

But it is a testament to McGuane – who has not told the story publicly before – that the on-field moment he treasures most is a chip pass to an unmarked mate in a back pocket.

“A lot of people would think my favourite memory is that goal. But, to be honest, it was the last kick of the 1990 Premiership when I kicked it to Pants (Darren Millane). Pants held the ball in his possession and then threw it up in the air when the siren went,” McGuane told 4Quarters.

“To be the last act of play, kicking in from fullback, even though I was a midfielder, I was just in the right place at the right time. Pants was by himself, the clock was ticking down, he made a lead for the pocket, and no one went with him.

“I just floated the ball and to see the joy on his face, and the happiness of the Collingwood supporters over the fence, and hearing the noise reverberate through the stadium.

“That day, it was truly something to behold, to have a treasured moment like that with a guy who I thought was going to be the next Collingwood captain. Unfortunately, he passed away in October 1991. He was a good mate of mine. So that moment became something important to me because it transcended the game of footy.

“I am always coming back to the connection, if I see a car with 42 (Millane’s guernsey number) on the license plate or someone calls with 42 in their mobile number, quite often I will flashback to that moment of me kicking the ball to him and the siren going.”

MICK THE MENTOR

One of the great satisfactions of being a local footy coach is seeing people evolve.

One of the great satisfactions of being a local footy coach is seeing people evolve.

You cannot judge a footy club by the quality of its buildings or grounds. The best barometer is always its people.

The administrative staff, coaches and players, the volunteers who cut the grass and fire up the BBQ on weekends and supporters who make the banners, buy raffle tickets and ring the ovals.

A group of people with sometimes little more in common than a love for a club, an excitement for the sport and a deep sense of community.

Mick McGuane is all of these things rolled into one common-sense package.

It is actually a pity that “footy tragic” is now such a cliché, because Mick is the real deal.

“I probably watch and think about footy now as much as when I played, maybe even more. It is fairly consuming,” he said.

This year marks the 15th the Collingwood star has been head coach of the Keilor Football Club in the Essendon District League.

You learn a lot from people who speak common sense.

He also coaches the club’s Under-16’s. Mick led the senior men to an A Grade premiership in his first season in 2008 and again in 2016 and 2019. His coaching career includes stints at four country and suburban clubs, as well as Richmond and St Kilda in the AFL.

Most people know McGuane as a guest footy columnist for the Herald Sun and Daily Telegraph and a footy commentator for radio station RSN. He is widely respected because he is a sublime gameday analyst who understands footy trends and team culture like few others. And he doesn’t worry about pulling punches. Spend an hour with him and it is not hard to work out why he has become such a successful coach.

It is the intangibles. The soft skills that connect and inspire individuals and teams and a boundless energy for education.

“I’ve always been a people person and just love that human connection side of the sport.

I love the team aspect and the community aspect, junior and senior engagement and, on the back of my experiences and upbringing, I have an enormous passion to teach the game the right way,” he said.

“Coaching is in my blood because I witnessed my dad and uncles do it from 54 years ago. (Former AFL coaches) Leigh Matthews and David Parkin have a massive influence on people’s lives.

“Just the logic that comes from their mouths, you learn a lot from people who speak common sense.”

Mick himself comes from stellar coaching stock.

His father Brian and Uncles Terry, Gavin and Tom were all country premiership coaches. A young Mick remembers literally sleeping with a Sherrin under his pillow and running through banners as a three-year-old club mascot. And the after match celebrations at the family farm house.

NO PATENCY

“There’s no patency on coaching, I learnt that early on. You take your experiences and what you have learnt and work with the people around you and do the best you can,” he said.

“I’d still love to be a player, but to stay involved in the game there is only one other thing you can do when you retire if you don’t want to be an administrator”.

A four-time Victorian representative at state level, McGuane worked in media when he left Victoria Park (and three games at Carlton) before rapidly establishing his coaching credentials and forging a successful career in local football.

He went to Burnie in Tasmania in 2000 and took the senior team of the insolvent club from the bottom of the ladder to premiers in 2001 without losing a game.

How?

He bit the bullet and cleared out almost every mature-age stalwart and fielded a new side with an average age of 21.

His coaching mantras were on display early: old heads and young legs, team first, take risks.

McGuane returned to the mainland and won the 2002 and 2003 flags with the Gisborne Dogs.

He then took Balwyn into the finals before moving to Keilor.

McGuane himself was a Collingwood barracker from his earliest memories. Although he lived in St Kilda’s recruitment zone, the Saints, who were cellar dwellers at the time, left him off its junior development list, enabling Collingwood to snap him up.

He then literally lived his childhood dream.

Now he is intent on helping aspiring young footballers do the same.

Mick’s footballing and life philosophy is to not only show his charges how to play football, but to help them grow as people. He has coached Under-10s, 12s and 16s at Keilor, everything he does has a sense of pastoral care.

“If you have a group of young boys and girls with an appetite, like we certainly have, who want to live out a dream, like I did, I want to give them the best possible chance of becoming draft commodities,” he said.

One of the great satisfactions of being a local footy coach is seeing people evolve. Sitting up at 3am doing edits, if that makes a player the best version of themselves then it’s worth it.

“If that correlates to winning games and bringing people together and creating a winning culture, then it is all worth it.

If you develop the person, you’ll also develop the player.

Courtesy: The Advertiser

MAKE THE PERSON, COACH THE FOOTBALLER

“I go in with the philosophy of developing the person, and if you develop the person, you’ll also develop the player.

“And that lays the foundations and leaves a legacy for the next generation of people at the club.

“There’s no greater satisfaction than seeing a group of young kids grow into adults. Footy clubs are not just about pulling players together to try to win premierships, but places for people to gather. We’ll have reunions in five, 10, 20 years, and that’s the coming together of people again. But in between those times there’s lots of heartburn, sacrifice and hard work no one sees”.

McGuane practices and encourages teamwork, collaboration and empathy. He will often call players he knows had a tough week at work and tell them to take the night off training.

Or he will give his players all January away from the training track to coincide with when most people are able to take family holidays. Mick creates shared visions and safe, comfortable environments where people can speak from the heart and have honest conversations. He can do this because he is not a detached figurehead, but the genuine article. All chips in.

Scattered through the footballing world are likely hundreds, if not thousands, of people who found themselves in McGuane’s orbit who he went out of his way to help.

And the bonds are strong and lasting.

After untried rookie Nick O’Kearney was delisted by St Kilda in October 2017, the first person the lightly framed half-forward called was McGuane. Mick had coached him from U10s to senior level. He gave O’Kearney his first taste of senior football at age 15 and the youngster gathered 37 possessions.

Courtesy: Ballarat Courier

“I knew how to teach the game but quickly learnt to shelve a ‘do it my way’ approach. I was transformed as a coach by listening to others.. “

“He wanted to lean on someone who would understand his plight and within half an hour we were having coffee. Tears flowing. Some work out, some don’t. Now he is in the police force and back connected to the Keilor Footy Club after we tried to get him re-drafted,” he said.

Again. If you develop the person, that lays the foundations and leaves a legacy for the next generation of people at the club.

If Mick were still playing he would “love to jump into one of the sides with great midfield depth like Melbourne, Western Bulldogs or Essendon”.

“But it is just fantastic crowds are back,” he said. “One thing that hasn’t changed is people saying: ‘I’ve had a hard week at work, but I cannot wait for the footy’.

“The players feed off the noise. When a goal is scored it’s uplifting and when the opposition score the cheering can be demoralising, but it also fires players up to get the next act of play right.

“The players need fans. It’s the people’s game. Just a beautiful connection of people in one venue to watch 44 players battle it out for bragging rights. And the extension is fans feel a sense of belonging wearing the colours.

“I just hope the AFL keep looking after them, to make sure the cost for a family is not outlandish.

“I loved the game because of the fans. It was tribalism, territorial, stake in the ground stuff, you want bragging rights. Everyone has their patch of turf and if you come here, you’re not taking any of that with you”.