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by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago

Less than a week before the start of Round One, former Melbourne coach Dean Bailey passed away after a brief battle with cancer. Bailey joined Adelaide as strategy and innovation coach in late 2011 after leaving the Melbourne Demons. The club granted him a leave of absence after he was diagnosed last November. Shortly after the announcement of his passing, the tributes poured in from all sectors of the football community. All and sundry described him as a very positive person, fiercely loyal and one who had a great sense of humor. Bailey was 47 and is survived by his wife Caron and sons Darcy and Mitchell.

As Round One got underway, about 800 people turned out at Adelaide Oval to pay their respects and farewell Bailey. Among those in attendance were all of the Adelaide players and staff, retired Demon Aaron Davey, former Essendon premiership player and inaugural Port captain Gavin Wanganeen, Hawthorn Coach Alistair Clarkson, former Melbourne co-captain Jack Trengove, Dom Cassisi, Kane Cornes, Warren Tredrea and Port Adelaide executives. SA football legend Russell Ebert and basketball and media personality Phil Smyth were among attendees. The AFL was represented by football operations general manager Mark Evans. Adelaide chairman Steven Trigg was one of seven speakers to deliver eulogies. He said Bailey was a fighter who was “tough to the end’’ and still concerned with how the Crows would perform this season. “He was genuinely saying to us the squad is in great shape, Sando can coach like crazy and that you guys have to push on, not sit around thinking about me.’’

Dean’s VFL/AFL career began at Essendon in 1986, after he was recruited from North Ringwood in the club’s zone. He played 53 league games until 1992 and then spent three years with SANFL club Glenelg, where he won the Best and Fairest trophy in 1995. After three years coaching Queensland club Mt Gravatt, Bailey returned to Essendon as a development coach. In 2002 he joined Port Adelaide, working under coach Mark Williams as an assistant in the 2004 Premiership. Melbourne appointed Bailey as its senior coach for the 2008 season and he coached the Demons in 85 games before crossing to Adelaide. AFL, Adelaide and Essendon Media Releases

Below are comments made through various media releases.

The Adelaide Football Club is deeply saddened by the passing of a much loved friend and colleague ... Dean had been battling cancer with his usual resilience and positive attitude ... A fiercely loyal and caring man, Dean leaves a lasting impression on everyone at the Adelaide Football Club, and the football industry. Crows CEO Steven Trigg said Dean will be remembered as a hard-working, family man, adding: "Few understood the game of football better than Dean ... he gained most pleasure from teaching and helping young men become better players and more importantly, better people ... Dean’s dry sense of humor also provided many priceless moments." Ian Shuttleworth, Adelaide Media Release

Andrew Demetriou said Bailey had fought hard against aggressive lung cancer ... and had left behind a huge circle of friends from his 30 year association with the game across the country. “Dean was a man in the prime of life, surrounded by good friends and a loving family ... His passing ... has shocked all in football ... and devastated everyone who knew him well in the football community."  Patrick Keane, AFL Media Release

Josh Mahoney, who was coached by Dean at Port Adelaide and later worked with him at Melbourne said: "From a personal perspective, Dean had an influence on a lot of the decisions I have made in my life. After first meeting him at Essendon in 2001, he was a major influence in me getting drafted by Port Adelaide, as well as entering coaching with the Melbourne Football Club ... I will always remember him as a close mentor and friend, as will all the staff and players who knew him at Melbourne. His love for the game ... took him across the country, chasing his dream of coaching and developing people and players. Bails had a dry sense of humor, and even in the toughest times he was often the man who would break the ice with a quick one liner. "  Ryan Larkin, Melbourne Media Release

AFLCA CEO Danny Frawley said: “Dean Bailey made an enormous contribution to football for almost 30 years across three states and with a broad range of clubs and organizations. Many young men will be thankful for having been tutored and mentored by Dean and we will all be better for having known him."  Danny Frawley, AFLCA Media Release

CEO Matt Finnis said: "Dean served the game for more than three decades, as a player, coach and mentor ... and was regarded as a great friend to many within the football community. As a coach, he helped shape the lives of many of the young men in our game. His dedication to developing players as people, as well as athletes, will be one of his ... legacies.” - Heath Evans, AFLPA Media Release

Dean was a highly popular and well regarded member of the Port Adelaide coaching staff. Port CEO Keith Thomas said the club was shattered to learn of Dean’s passing. “Dean played an instrumental role as defensive coach in our premiership year of 2004. Current players Dom Cassisi and Kane Cornes often refer to the influence that Dean had on their personal careers from both an on and off field perspective and his contribution to our Premiership. Dean clearly was a great football person but most significantly he was just a wonderful person full stop. He will be sadly missed by all." The Port players wore black armbands in their game against Carlton.  James Wakelin, Port Adelaide Media Release

Inaugural coach and current director Kevin Sheedy said: “I was fortunate enough to know Dean Bailey very well. I recruited him to Essendon and he was a very tough, reliable player who was very unlucky to not to have played in a Grand Final. Dean went on to become an excellent coach who helped Port Adelaide win a premiership ... and at Melbourne which he helped drag off the bottom of the ladder and he handled his untimely departure from the club with tremendous dignity. He was a great football person who had a dry sense of humor and a very sharp mind ... He will be sadly missed but certainly not forgotten.”  Leigh Meyrick, GWS Media Release

Essendon Senior Coach Mark Thompson paid tribute to his former teammate. “Bails was just a great bloke ... On the field you always knew what you were going to get ... he was a very smart footballer and had a brilliant football brain ... as an assistant at Essendon he showed a lot of innovation in the way he developed players and he clearly had a strong passion for teaching. He was a wonderful family man and real Essendon person, he will be deeply missed.  Jeremy Arnold, Essendon Media Release

Several of Richmond’s staff, coaches and players have enjoyed a close relationship with Bailey at some point in their careers. Coach Damien Hardwick played under Bailey when he was a development coach at Essendon and assistant at Port Adelaide, sharing premierships in 2000 and 2004. “Dean was a man of great principles and strong values. He was down-to-earth, funny, caring, honest, and very family orientated ... One of the biggest things I learned from Dean was how much he values his family, and how important that is. It was a pleasure to ... work with him. He made it fun ... he was very much a relationship-based coach.” Assistant coach Mark Williams said Bailey was "a terrific guy ... a solid citizen for me and a great sounding board ... He really did care for players, and he was fiercely loyal. He was a very strong man in his principles.”  Adrian Ceddia, Richmond Media Release

Article last changed on Wednesday, March 19, 2014 - 9:29 PM EDT

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