WHEN Neil Craig steps into the coaches box on Saturday he will be the fourth interim coach of Melbourne since 1997.
Mark Neeld’s departure this week marks the fourth time a Melbourne coach has departed mid-season. Dean Bailey, Neale Daniher and Neil Balme have all been replaced mid-season by Todd Viney, Mark Riley and Greg Hutchison respectively.
Upon hearing of Neeld’s dismissal, more than a few St Kilda fans would have instantly thought of the strange phenomenon that teams win the first game they play under an interim coach – in this case former Adelaide coach Neil Craig.
The Demons have a good recent history playing under interim coaches with two of their last three mid-season changes providing instant wins.
Mark Riley took the Demons to a 23-point win over Carlton after taking the reins from Neale Daniher while Greg Hutchison coached a 25-point win over Richmond after taking over from Neil Balme.
Hutchison, who is now the Football Operations Manager at St Kilda, coached the Demons to another 13 games before Daniher was appointed to the role on a permanent basis.
This will not be the first time Craig has taken over a team mid-season. In 2004 he took over the Crows after Gary Ayres was sacked and guided them to a thumping win over Melbourne.
Craig’s stint at the Crows came to an end seven years later following a 103-point thrashing at the hands of St Kilda – the team he will encounter this week.
Paul Williams (Bulldogs), Jade Rawlings (Richmond), Peter Rohde (Bulldogs), Mark Harvey (Fremantle) and Paul Roos (Sydney Swans) also stepped up from their roles as assistant coaches to win their first game in charge. In the case of Harvey and Roos, it led to them winning the senior position on a permanent basis.
But it may be something of a myth to assume that a new coach will definitely bring a win with the win-loss record sitting at about even in recent years.Mark Bickley (Adelaide), Matthew Primus (Port Adelaide), Garry Hocking (Port Adelaide), Darren Crocker (North Melbourne), Donald McDonald (Hawthorn), Ben Allan (Fremantle) and Brett Ratten (Carlton) weren’t able to get wins in game one but it didn’t stop Primus and Ratten from winning the role permanently.