It’s been good for me, looking back, to see what I’ve achieved. Only recently I’ve realised how lucky I have been with the timing of major changes in my life. The book has given me the opportunity to reflect on those who I have learnt from and who have helped me along the way, in footy and in life. To all of you – you know who you are, and you’re part of this story. You’ve been amazing role models, influenced me greatly and taught me how to teach and to be a leader of people. I haven’t been an easy person to work with or live with, so thanks for putting up with me. From the bottom of my heart I sincerely thank you all for the roles you all played in my life and story.
To all the teammates I’ve worked with – so many great men who committed their life to the Essendon Football Club and together reached the pinnacle of success. We always played in finals, won premierships. We worked hard, always striving to be better, doing things we had never done before because we were desperate to get something we had never had before. Without their help I would not have played a single game of senior football, not won premierships, not gone on to coach anywhere and Geelong might not have won three premierships and created legends of the game. A big part of this book and my story is a direct result of my ex-teammates who had a massive influence on me. I loved playing with them, loved our skillful style of play, loved our combativeness and fierce battles with the other clubs, loved winning games, loved the premierships I got to play in. I thank my teammates for the wonderful memories.
Thanks to my crew of players at Geelong who are now heroes and champions of the game. I am very proud of their success, and the fact that they remained respectful of the game, and to the supporters and staff at the club, and most importantly to each other. We won with class, respect and humility. I love the words in the club song, and for a period of time we really were ‘The Greatest Team Of All’. I really missed the Geelong Football Club after I had left, especially the players who are just good solid men, now my mates. I have an incredible level of respect for them and that with remain forever.
I want to thank the current players at Essendon for being so honest, respectful, resilient and tolerant throughout the supplement investigation. I’m saddened that it has affected their ability to be play as a champion team and that after four years, we still haven’t found out what really occurred. And I’m sorry I could not have done more to make it easier for them to just play the game. Finally, I am sorry for not being able to do more to prove their innocence as I honestly believe they have done nothing to deserve the treatment they received. Nobody has been treated worse in football in all the years I’ve been involved in the game.
I need to thank Kevin Sheedy for giving me opportunities, firstly to play and then convincing me to take up coaching. Kevin shaped who I am more than any other person. I’ve always felt him looking out for me along the journey and that has comforted me. I’m really glad he chose to look after me when he had many others to choose from. Thanks also to Denis Pagan for giving me my first coaching opportunity outside the Bombers which was an incredibly worthwhile experience. At Geelong, working alongside Brian Cook and Frank Costa was one of my masterstrokes of timing and decision making. They were great to work with and to work for, and I learnt so much from both of them. I cannot thank Brian and Frank enough for taking a punt on me back in 1999.
A few special mentions. David Wheadon was my first mentor back when I started coaching and taught me lots about not only the game, but how to teach it. Brendan McCartney was the first person I employed and he finished the same day as me as well; he was my rock and a great coach of football. Stephen Wells and I fought and argued a lot, but together we selected good people who could play the Geelong way. We all made great memories and still have a good laugh. One of my favorite people to work with was Steven Hocking, the toughest conversationalist I’ve ever meet. He won every time; he was always right. He just got things done and was so disciplined, tough and fair. He was perfect in that football admin role. There are so many other people deserving of mentions, but I cannot fit you all in.
To my family – thanks for the sacrifices you made along the way, for putting up with my moods and for the support you’ve shown throughout especially when the tough times were present. I know I’ve been hard work at times.
Thank you to my wonderful children Lauren, Michael and Daniel. I missed part of your lives but you have turned out to be wonderful people, and thanks must go to your mother, Annette.
Another special person who influenced my life has been Jana. We shared some amazingly fun times together and I coached some of my best years with her by my side.
And last to acknowledge is Martin Blake, who at times I’m sure thought he had the worst task in the world in co-writing my book, as did editor/sounding board, Andrea McNamara. Without their patience, organisation, getting me into line and most importantly connecting with me, the book certainly wouldn’t have happened.