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by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago

The 66-year coaching record of perhaps Collingwood's greatest ever coach Jock McHale will be equaled in Round Four and surpassed in Round Five. Carlton Coach Mick Malthouse will coach his 714th match, putting him equal with McHale. While McHale played and coached only at Collingwood, Mick's record includes 135 games coaching Footscray (now Western Bulldogs), 243 games coaching West Coast, 286 games with Collingwood and 50 games (through Round Four) at Carlton.

McHale, originally rejected by Collingwood but later impressive enough in a preseason game for a second chance, played 261 games during 1903-1918. He started on the halfback line but later moved into the center. He had a great ability to read the game and opponents, traits which translated into his coaching as he could easily assess his players during training and match simulations. He himself would umpire those intraclub games. Although he left skills training up to his assistants and the players, he could inspire his charges with his speeches. A strict disciplinarian, he commanded so much respect from his current and past players that they referred to him as Mr. McHale or Sir. He believed in players holding their assigned positions and once took a player out of a match who ignored instructions to get the ball to star forward Gordon Coventry (and kicked a goal himself).

McHale served as captain-coach during the 1912-13 seasons and was playing coach 1914 to '17 and continued as non-playing coach from 1918 until retirement in1949. He played in the 1910 and 1917 premierships and coached the team in 8 other premierships, including the still-standing record of four in a row beginning in 1927. He is listed as coach for the 1930 Grand Final, but was actually home in bed with the flu for that game. He was in touch via telephone while the club's treasurer of the day, Tom Rush, coached at the ground. In 1928, he even invented a table top game to "... keep the fans happy during the week." Malthouse was never a playing coach as those days were long gone by the time Malthouse began his playing career.

Malthouse, compared to McHale, is somewhat of a journeyman as a player and coach. He began his playing career at St Kilda where he played 53 games during 1972-76. Coach Allan Jeans thought Mick would struggle due to so many similar defenders at the club, so Malthouse crossed to Richmond where he played 121 games from 1976 to '83. He developed a streak of toughness and became known as one of the hardest back pocket players of his time. For several years, he was a teammate of fellow back pocket Kevin Sheedy, who also became a famous long-serving coach. He played in Richmond's 1980 premiership but missed the 1982 Grand Final due to a shoulder injury. He was appointed coach of Footscray in 1984 immediately after retiring as a player. He took the Bulldogs into the finals in just his second season in charge. He resigned as coach after six seasons, citing the club's lack of money, supporters and winning players. Subsequently he became the first non-West Australian to coach at West Coast and took them into the 1991 Grand Final, which they lost to Hawthorn. This was followed by the premierships at West Coast in 1992 and 1994. He continued to coach the Eagles into finals almost every year for the next decade, before West Coast decided it was time for a change.

Malthouse returned to Victoria to coach Collingwood in 2000 after a highly publicized recruitment by Eddie McGuire, the TV/radio commentator and president of Collingwood. He took the 1999 last place Magpies to the 2002 and 2003 Grand Finals, both of which were lost to the then dominant Brisbane Lions. Under his coaching, the Magpies made it to another Grand Final in 2010 with the game ending in a tie, just the third time in league history a Grand Final finished even. The game was replayed the following week according to AFL rules. A few tweaks here and there and the Magpies comfortably accounted for St Kilda in the replay for his third time coaching the champion. The club announced a succession plan in 2011 with club legend Nathan Buckley nominated as the heir apparent. There was also speculation at the time that Malthouse would remain at the club in a mentoring capacity to the new senior coach Buckley. However Malthouse, amid rumors of tension between himself, president Eddie McGuire, and Buckley left the club and the coaches' box at the end of 2011 and spent a year in the media. He was appointed coach of Carlton for 2013 after the Blues sacked favorite son Brett Ratten at the end of the 2012 season.

Some historians and SEN presenter Kevin Bartlett believe the AFL needs to correct the records, claiming that McHale's record should stand at only 713 games due to his illness and absence from the 1930 Grand Final. Thus Round Four would be the record-breaking match for Malthouse. But league records list McHale as the official coach for that game, with his stand-in Rush also being credited for one VFL game as a coach. According to Bartlett, the AFL and their historians are perpetuating a mistake. Bartlett points out the contradiction that although McHale is credited as coach, Peter Schwab is not credited with games coached at Hawthorn when he was hospitalized briefly in 2013. The AFL believes there was no official declaration of anyone else coaching Collingwood, with consider McHale’s mid-week role at the club integral in their ruling that he coached that game. But Bartlett believes it is time to set the record straight, “The AFL historians try to tell us that the Pies didn’t hold a press conference to tell us who was the replacement for the ill McHale. Don’t keep portraying an historical lie.

This slight controversy aside, behind Malthouse and McHale for games coached are former teammate Kevin Sheedy (679 games with Essendon and the GWS Giants), Allan Jeans (575 games with St Kilda, Hawthorn and Richmond), Tom Hafey (522 games with Richmond, Collingwood, Geelong and the Sydney Swans), David Parkin (518 games with Hawthorn, Carlton and Fitzroy), Ron Barassi (514 games with Melbourne, Carlton, North Melbourne and the Sydney Swans), Leigh Matthews (461 games with Collingwood and the Brisbane Lions), Norm Smith (449 games with Fitzroy, Melbourne and South Melbourne), and Dick Reynolds (415 games with Essendon).

Source: Patrick Keane, AFL Media Release, The Clubs, 100 Years of Australian Football, Encyclopedia of League Footballers, sen.com.au

Article last changed on Thursday, April 23, 2015 - 1:55 PM EDT


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