A successful team requires a combination of moving parts and a great coach is someone who enables an environment where all these parts can work together cohesively. Arguably, the best AFL Grand Final coaches are the ones who have actually played the game themselves and even better, played in a Premiership during their career. Let’s check out the who’s who of the best AFL Grand Final coaches.
Without a doubt, Leigh Matthews is one of the all-time greats. He definitely earned his nickname of “Lethal Leigh” due to his skill and prowess on the field when he played and has been officially recognised as the greatest player of VFL/AFL in the 20th century. Matthews coached Collingwood for almost 10 years and guided the team to the Premiership over Essendon in 1990, ending what was known as the “Colliwobbles” for the Pies.
Matthews then moved on to be the head coach of the Brisbane Lions, immediately turning their luck around, after they took the wooden spoon in 1998. He managed to get the team to the finals in 2000 and they ultimately became the premiers against a seemingly unstoppable Essendon in 2001. His conquests continued into the next year’s Grand Final when the Brisbane Lion won a second time against Collingwood. Truly one of the best AFL Grand Final coaches of all time.
Unequivocal legend Kevin Sheedy is a master of AFL. He played for 12 years with Richmond seeing in 3 premierships and was inducted into their hall of fame in 2002.
Sheedy coached the Essendon Bombers from 1981 until 2007 and amassed 4 premierships during his term, most notably in 1993 and 2000. Sheedy’s unorthodox way of coaching helped the Bombers to these victories by constantly changing players positions around on field which always kept the opponents guessing on how to combat his tactics.
Sheedy ended up coaching for Greater Western Sydney and when he retired in 2013, both teams (The Giants and Gold Coast) formed a guard of honour when he left the field.
The first man to be inducted into the Australian Hall of Fame as a legend really needs no introduction. Coached by none other than Norm Smith, he quickly proved himself to be a highly capable and influential player for the Melbourne Demons. His coaching abilities have been described as revolutionary by many and he has guided both Carlton and North Melbourne through to 2 premierships apiece.
Under the tutelage of Mick Malthouse, the West Coast Eagles nabbed two premierships in 1992 and 1994. The ‘92 victory was a turning point in the game as it marked the first time a team outside of Victoria had won a premiership.
The 1994 Grand Final was also esteemed; Geelong worked hard to take the premiership, but the Eagles denied them of that, beating the Cats by a resounding 80 points. Malthouse moved on to coach Collingwood in 2000 but it was not until 2010 when the team tasted success again in the Grand Final against St Kilda. Collingwood finally took the Premiership after a replay, as the Grand Final was a draw when the match was first played.
Which AFL coach has the most premierships?
Jock McHale led Collingwood to a record 8 premierships. McHale was inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame in 1996 as one of the many legendary coaches we have witnessed taking their teams to a number of Grand Final wins.
So, there you have it, a brief guide to the best of the best AFL/VFL coaches. Future seasons will determine the coaches who can join this illustrious list in the coming years.