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Former premiership player Brendon Lade has returned to Port Adelaide after six years as assistant coach at Richmond as the coaching panel re-shuffle at Alberton begins to take shape. Lade joins the Power as an assistant where he will work primarily as ruck coach with Aaron Greaves moving into the role of head of football development.
With Shaun Hart vacating his coaching director role and Garry Hocking departing the club there is still expected to be more change to the football department for next season. Will the appointment of Brendon Lade prove to be a good one?
As a player Lade was certainly loved and admired by Port fans. A career that spanned 234 games and included 2 All-Australian selections, a John Cahill medal and a 2004 premiership medal. One of the best tap ruckman in the game and the ability to kick a goal, he was a vital player during his long and illustrious career at Port Adelaide.
When the late Phil Walsh was appointed coach of the Adelaide Crows he was reportedly keen on luring Lade to join him at Adelaide in a coaching role. Walsh was full of praise for the ex-Port ruckman whom he rated as having one of the best football minds in the business.
Typically the model when appointing a senior AFL coach has been for clubs to look towards the most successful and well-performed teams for coaching appointments. Brendon Bolton was a long term assistant during the successful Hawthorn regime before being appointed Carlton coach and Don Pyke was highly rated for his work at West Coast when the Crows pounced to bring him to West Lakes.
Assistant coaches tend to change more frequently but again those that work in a successful environment are the ones who tend to garner the most interest from opposition clubs and are talked up in media circles.
It can be difficult to judge the performance of an assistant coach and specifically whether Brendon Lade has done a good or bad job at the Tigers. Without being in the inner sanctum no one really knows how much input Lade has had on the game plan, team selection, tactics and how much he is confined working under the structure developed by Damien Hardwick. Some people have viewed Lade as Hardwick’s right hand man so lump Lade with a lot of the failure at the club. His role has involved working as ruck and midfield stoppage coach.
The on field performance at Richmond is why there is some cynicism around the appointment of Brendon Lade despite his playing career at Port. Six years at a club without a solitary final win is a record that does not look all that impressive in isolation.
Since the departure of Lade from Richmond the comments from those associated with the Tigers could best be described as mixed. Dr Martin Hiscock a prime example on SEN radio who was quite scathing with his comments on Lade. Who is Martin Hiscock you might ask, he is the leader of the ‘focus on football’ group that is trying to overhaul the Richmond board and initiate change at Punt Road. “I don’t know why they offered Brendon Lade another year because if you talk to the players this year, they just can’t just gel with him “He has (left now), thank goodness. We don’t have to put up with that again.”
While they are not the nicest comments they need to be treated accordingly. They were made by an individual who has no involvement at Richmond and were made by someone whose major platform for change at Richmond was getting Neil Balme to the club. This is despite the fact he had not had a single meeting with Balme, and then Balme was appointed to the club by the current board he is trying to overthrow. If Richmond were so keen for Lade to depart then it seems strange they would offer him a one year deal to remain at the club when they had no obligation to do so. The rival Richmond ticket has now scrapped plan to challenge the current board. What a professional group 'focus on football' is.
In the words of Albert Einstein "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” Port Adelaide have acknowledged change to the playing list and coaches are needed after two disappointing years. Regardless of what has happened at Tigerland this is a fresh start for Brendon Lade and on-field performance next year is what he will be judged on by the Alberton faithful.