The Adelaide Crows have unveiled Phil Walsh as their new head coach, with the former Port Adelaide assistant coach signing a three year deal.
New Adelaide coach Phil Walsh at the press conference on Tuesday with CEO Andrew Fagan. PHOTO SARAH REED Source: News Limited
Port Adelaide's players knew 10 years ago that Phil Walsh was a coach waiting to be untapped, even though Walsh stubbornly kept saying the No. 1 role was not for him.
It took until two life-threatening, and life-changing, events for Walsh to reconsider his lot in the football world.
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The first was when he was close to losing his life after being hit by a bus when on holidays on Peru in 2012, the second the death of close mate Dean Bailey to cancer.
Walsh reflected on his change of mind yesterday, when unveiled as Adelaide's senior coach, only days after Port Adelaide chief executive Keith Thomas had spoken of his surprise that Walsh was in the running. Walsh had never seemed interested in taking a senior job.
Adelaide's new senior coach Phil Walsh. PHOTO SARAH REED Source: News Limited
But as those who have known him from his days at Geelong, Port Adelaide, West Coast and then Port Adelaide again can attest, Walsh has both mellowed and become more single-minded over the years.
He is still as firm in his beliefs — arguably more so than ever — but he has tempered and harnessed his passion since he and Mark Williams had a fruitful but famously volatile partnership at Alberton leading up to the 2004 premiership.
But there's been a change in Walsh, however subtle.
"I've had a few moments, particularly over the past 12 months,'' he said. ``I don't want to go into them privately too much but I will share with people I just got a text message from Caron Bailey.
"It made me quite emotional. She said, `Dean would have a bit of a giggle about this,' and it really did resonate with me. I got a little bit of a warm heart about it.
"But I suppose I took myself out of my own journey and thought, anyone who's done what I've done probably deserves to be a senior coach.
"I'm 54 years old and it's probably not going to come around again. I tell my kids to chase their dreams, so I probably don't want to look back at 70 years old and think what might have been. So here I am.''
Phil Walsh at the press conference on Tuesday with new CEO Andrew Fagan. PHOTO SARAH REED Source: News Limited
Premiership full-back Darryl Wakelin could see the qualities of a senior coach in Walsh both as a player under the Williams-Walsh era and as a board member after his playing days.
Wakelin was also witness to Walsh's and Williams' tireless work ethic.
The pair would hound official AFL statisticians Champion Data with detailed requests no other club had thought of at the time, and also had their own in-house compilations of statistics.
On top of the list were score sources: whether ether teams kicked goals from stoppages, turnovers, kick-outs — and from where the goals were generated.
Walsh used terminology back then that have only crept into common football analysis over the past two or three years,.
"He (Walsh) was just a master tactician as the game evolved,'' Wakelin recalled. ``He was just ahead of his time.
"When he went to West Coast, he had a huge influence as well. John Worsfold was a very good one-on-one coach and Walsh complemented him and was a big part of how they rose up the ladder.''
Wakelin also recalled the discussions between Walsh and Dean Bailey, both of whom were fans of international sport and sought ways to find ideas from the National Football League in the US.
Taylor Walker at the press conference. PHOTO SARAH REED Source: News Limited
Walsh had an enormous thirst for knowledge and a challenge, traits that he will now bring to West Lakes.
It did not surprise Wakelin to see Walsh finally accept his calling.
"He had all the qualities for it, always did,'' Wakelin said. ``He obviously used to say that it was not for him, but sometimes it's all about timing — about the right time and the right place.
"But he's obviously seen some potential in their (Adelaide's) list.
"From my understanding, he's softened a bit since his experience in Peru, but there will be some non-negotiables in his coaching and work ethic will be the foundation.
"He'll want strong characters around him, who make the club and football their priority.
"He's very disciplined and with him as a coach, you certainly knew where you stood.''
The thing that stands out about Walsh is his ability to instil confidence. Wakelin put it well.
"He gave you a huge amount of confidence in the tactics going into the game, in the specifics and how it was going to work.''
Adelaide is set to name Phil Walsh as their new coach, after David Koch, chairman of cross town rivals Port Adelaide, confirmed the club was losing its assistant coach to nthe Crows.
HOW WALSH WON THE JOB
AS THE coaching panel at West Lakes began its search for a new coach, a blank piece of paper was brought out and those in attendance began writing down potential candidates.
The panel — made up by board members Mark Ricciuto and Andrew Payze, football chief David Noble, new club chief executive Andrew Fagan and development coach Alan Stewart- would later whittle down the list to a final four, but to begin with it was brain storming.
There were an excess of 60 AFL assistant coaches that could be considered, more if development coaches were considered.
The piece of paper was filled quickly.
Club chairman Rob Chapman, who attended that first meeting, said Phil Walsh's name was one of the first to be jotted down. Much of it was because of his reputation in the industry. Much of it was because of the high regard in which he was held by the late Dean Bailey, who was one of his best mates and an Adelaide senior assistant coach.
The Crows powerbrokers regularly ran into Walsh when visiting Bailey in hospital during his battle with cancer. Under their noses were one of the most experienced football people working in Adelaide, but also one with impeccable values and loyalty.
Walsh had played with three clubs: Collingwood, Richmond and Brisbane. He had also been working as a fitness coach at Geelong, an assistant at Port Adelaide and West Coast and then at Port Adelaide again.
When he met with the Crows, informally at first, he impressed them immediately.
Those who have played under a coaching structure which includes Walsh talk about his ability to convince the players the club's game plan is water proof.
Chapman said the same confidence and conviction had moved the coaching panel similarly.
"He impressed straight away,'' Chapman said. "We could not be happier.
"And all of our feedback, or due diligence, say the same thing. The consistent message is that he's one of the best tacticians in the game.
"What good coaches do is instil confidence, and he does that.''Originally published as Crows coach Walsh ahead of his time