Coaching Success – Luke Beveridge
Why was he so successful?
The dream has become a reality, and after waiting 62 years the Bulldogs have won an AFL premiership!
Many of the commentators have accredited this success to the Bulldog’s coach Luke Beveridge. I want to reflect on his achievement.
Let’s think about how unlikely a Bulldog premiership was:
1. The Bulldogs finished seventh in the home-and-away competition. No team has ever won a Grand Final from seventh position. In 1997, Adelaide won from fifth place.
2. The team lost key players during the season. Crameri was suspended for various supplements infractions by his previous team Essendon, Mitch Wallis suffered a season ending ankle injury. And our “O Captain! My Captain!” Bob Murphy was also out for the season after sustaining an injury in round 3. This is not to overlook important players like Jong, Redpath, Adams, Stevens and Suckling who were also not fit to play because of injury. The team used 39 players during the season – equal-second in history among premiership teams behind Fitzroy’s use of 44 players in 1944 during World War II.
3. Last year we were bundled out of the finals in the first week.
4. The year before (2014) we lost our captain to the Giants and our coach and a number of senior players to either retirement or other clubs. In one week we lost over 500 games of experience.
5. Finishing seventh meant we had to play four sudden death finals in four consecutive weeks away from home. One in Perth and one in Sydney.
6. We had to beat the mighty Hawks who were playing for their fourth consecutive premiership.
7. We had to beat the Swans, who finished top of the ladder and were chasing their second premiership in 6 years having lost in 2014.
8. Not a single Bulldog player had played a Grand Final. This was the first team since 1997 to field players with no Grand Final experience.
9. The club had lost 7 successive preliminary finals and had not played in a Grand Final since 1961.
10. Our playing list was nothing special. We have some emerging talent. We have a number of players that had been overlooked by other clubs. We have no marquee players. Our team score in the Brownlow count was middling.
So what is so special about Luke Beveridge?
I have read a lot about him in the past week and I have discerned three stand-out qualities.
A lot of players were taken aback when Beveridge joined the club. In their early training sessions it became clear to them that this new coach demanded high standards from his team.
During this season Beveridge was not afraid to “drop” key players if they did not meet expectations. Minson and Stringer played for the seconds when the coach was not happy with their performance. Macrae suffered a similar fate early in the season.
This was despite the team suffering many injury setbacks and being short of senior players some weekends.
Mick Malthouse who coached Beveridge at the Bulldogs said that Beveridge did not have a footballer’s physique. He was short and not exceptionally fast. But he played a tough game, always willing himself on. It is these same high standards that he imposed on his players and staff.
Beveridge is an exceptional communicator. There were several articles in the press of Beveridge’s story-telling style.
Throughout the season he impressed on the players that this season was their story and they were responsible for writing every chapter. Sounds corny; but it was effective because firstly, the group believed they were unique, if not special. They were different and set apart from the other teams.
Secondly, their story had certain themes, such as effort, courage, highs and lows, looking after each other.
He had stories for each part of the team. When he was at Hawthorn and looked after the defenders, the back six were encouraged to view themselves as tough guys in the Clint Eastwood mould. They were rough and ready to take on all-comers. No one got through their line. They worked together like a group of Bandidos and watched each other’s back. Beveridge was always showing movie clips and videos to his players.
People relate to stories more readily and as a story-teller Beveridge got his message across.
On the morning of the big game he asked the players to think of themselves as a musical band. Each section had its role and its talents. Each section had its different sound and score. Everyone contributed in a different way to the team’s success. Together they made music.
Beveridge is a very sentimental person. He wears his heart on his sleeve. I watched a TV special recently, during which he broke down while talking about his idol Trevor Barker. Months before Barker died, Beveridge had joined St Kilda and looked forward to playing under his hero. His death affected him deeply and he was not ashamed to show it.
In being sentimental, he opened himself up to his players. They responded in kind. Murphy tells the story of one particularly good win during the season. After the game, Beveridge told the players how proud he was of them. Murphy said that after seeing his reaction to our effort you would do anything for him. “He had us for life.”
Beveridge fostered a special connection with his team.
On Grand Final day he gave up his medal to the team captain who had to watch from the sidelines. Many said it was the most moving moment in football history. Why would you not walk over hot coals for someone like that?
Tom Boyd our million dollar recruit had a tough season. On many occasions his performances were below par. His multi-million dollar contract weighed heavily on him. After the win on Saturday, Boyd was filled with praise for the coach. He said that he was always encouraged by Beveridge and made to feel important. He was grateful for his high level of support.
And through a combination of these things, something special happened at the Whitten Oval. That special thing was BELIEF. The team believed they could succeed. And it was palpable. Everyone could see it. Week in, week out they played with big hearts and courage …. and success followed.
The club theme #bemorebulldog became #believemorebulldog.
This was an incredible coaching performance for a coach in his first senior coaching appointment. But should we be surprised?
Beveridge’s first coaching assignment was in amateur football. He coached St Bede’s C grade to a premiership in his first year.
The following year he took the same group to a premiership in B grade.
The following year he took the same group to a premiership in A grade.