Under vastly contrasting circumstances, Swan defender Heath Grundy and North Melbourne coach Brad Scott have departed.
Sydney defender Heath Grundy has been forced to retire due to a debilitating back injury. Grundy initially suffered the injury during a preseason game and was hoping to play this season. However , the injury failed to respond to treatment and it began to affect his life away from the game. Whether or not he will require surgery will be determined in the next few weeks. As Grundy explained, "I couldn't do what I wanted to do at home ... I was struggling to get in and out of the car and I couldn't get my son in and out of the cot ... it starts dragging you down every day and that's where it got too."
Grundy was one of the most durable and toughest defenders in the game, often taking on the opposition's best tall forwards and usually beat them. Hailing form Adelaide, Grundy was rookie listed in 2004 and holds the record for most games played for the Swans by a rookie and sits in seventh spot on the AFL list for games played by rookies. Grundy, 32, played 256 games and kicked 24 goals. He was voted most improved player in 2009 and was an integral part of the Swans' defense in their 2012 premiership win. He played more than 20 games a season from 2009 to 2017.
Coach John Longmire paid tribute to Grundy, “Heath has been an unbelievable servant ... for a long time and ... he will be missed ... “In terms of leadership, Heath set an example for all of us with his meticulous preparation, dedication and passion for his craft. One of the things you do when you look at your team is ... get your back six in order ... we've just been able to grab Heath's magnet and put it up on the board, and he's been doing the job on opposition key forwards for as long as I can remember. His athleticism was underrated, and he had the ability to stop the opposition's best forwards and also be able to springboard our attacks."
Grundy will continue to mentor Sydney's defenders, particularly emerging talls Aliir Aliir and Lewis Melican.
Just as Round 10 was getting underway, North Melbourne announced they had come to amicable agreement with Coach Brad Scott to part ways. He was contracted through 2020. It is believed the club was not going to retain him after the 2019 season.
The timing of his leaving allows North to conduct a thorough review of its entire operations without compromising existing contracts, and it allows Scott to officially enter negotiations for other coaching positions which might be available. While there is some concern at having an interim coach for the duration of the season, others are of the view that since he was most likely going to leave at the end of the year, there was no point in him seeing out the year. Scott, 43, who began as senior coach in 2010, has a strong relationship with St Kilda football manager Simon Lethlean, while Carlton coach Brendon Bolton is also under pressure after the Blues' dismal start to the season.
Scott himself actually offered to step down in discussions with the board several weeks ago, saying he could not commit "...for the long haul" and suggested his leaving before his contract expired would be beneficial for the club. Chairman Ben Buckley and the board did not immediately accept the proposal, but exit negotiations recently began between Scott, Buckley and CEO Carl Dilena. Rhyce Shaw (brother of GWS defender Heath), in his first season as an assistant, will take over as interim coach for the rest of the year while the club will immediately embark on a search for a new senior coach.
Scott said the decision to step down was, “what’s right, not what’s easy". He also said he felt that he would not be able to "...provide the fresh air that was needed..." and that he would have loved to continue but the time was right to step aside. He also paid tribute to the players, "To ... my boys, I have always defended you guys to the hilt ... because of the quality of characters you guys are. I genuinely hope that in some small way I have shaped the people you are and will become." Although he refused to speculate about his professional future, he did say that he would be "... be the best husband and father I can be, playing a hell of a lot more golf and barracking for the Kangaroos."
Scott said he was unconcerned about his coaching future, "The only thing I'll say about that is I've said for my entire tenure here ... that my focus is on what's best for our club ... It's certainly at the forefront of my mind ... that we need to do what's best for North Melbourne, and what's best for North right at the moment is the next 24 hours and the Bulldogs ... "
Scott is one of 10 current coaches who have coached teams into at least two preliminary finals, with the Kangaroos making consecutive preliminary finals in 2014 and 2015 despite having just three top 10 picks during Scott's time as coach (with two arriving in the past two years) and failing to attract big-name recruits. He signed a new deal at the end of 2017 - a year before his contract was due to expire at the end of 2018 - after speculation at the time that he might join Gold Coast. He has coached the club through a time of compromised drafts and maintained competitiveness throughout to become one of the more respected voices in the game with his senior players full of praise for his ability to get the best out of players.
Chairman Ben Buckley praised Scott for his dedication and commitment to the club, “Since walking in at age 33 in 2009, Brad has poured his heart and soul into this club. He led a rebuild of the club on and off the field, bringing us into the 21st century with a new vision and professional approach to coaching, player management, resourcing, sports science and our culture ... he has taken the club to eight finals, including two preliminaries in 2014 and 2015. Brad leaves North Melbourne a true Shinboner and will always be part of our family. We are indebted to him for his service, loyalty and passion."
For the record, Scott played 22 games for Hawthorn in 1997 before joining twin brother Chris at Brisbane where he played a further 146 games from 1998 to 2005.
Sources: afl.com.au, theage.com.au, Heath O'Loughlin, North Melbourne Media Release, AFL Record Season Guide
Article last changed on Monday, May 27, 2019 - 12:14 PM EDT