Craig ponders putting up hand for Demons job

By , 10/10/2018 09:47

Having declared he was finished as a senior coach after leaving Adelaide, Neil Craig has changed tack and says he will use the next 11 weeks to decide whether he wants to apply for the Melbourne role.

Craig, 57, will be caretaker coach for the Demons after Mark Neeld was sacked on Monday. He had been a senior assistant and mentor to Neeld.

This period before the end of the season will allow Craig to determine if he still has the passion for the top role, while also allowing the club to determine if he fits its as-yet unspecified criteria.

Asked on Tuesday if he wanted the top job on a permanent basis, Craig replied: “There are a couple of things on that. In the next 11 weeks, we will have the opportunity to see what the feelings are again.

“It is a tough job being the senior coach of an AFL club, doesn’t matter what club you’re in. It is a really tough job.

“The headaches as early as yesterday came back, so the stress comes back pretty quickly. There will be 11 weeks to gauge that.

“The key thing, of course, is that the club needs to be really clear about the type of coach it is looking for.

“Sometimes that can take some time. You might say it’s obvious they [Melbourne] will do that properly, but my experience is a lot of clubs don’t necessarily do that well. They don’t really know what they want.

“I am sure Melbourne will take its time to decide the type of coach it needs. That might be poles apart to myself.”

One major challenge for Craig will be to separate his style, manner and even game plan from Neeld, otherwise he could be seen as an extension of the problem that has derailed in the embattled club in the past 18 months.

Craig said he sympathised with supporters who were sick of “hearing what’s going to happen – they want to see some action and I think that’s fair enough”.

Premiership coaches Mark Williams and Paul Roos, and experienced former Sydney and Western Bulldogs coach Rodney Eade, top the Demons’ wish list.

Roos has again given mixed vibes, although he now says he would chat with the Demons if he was approached. The Demons would have submit a long-term, multimillion-dollar deal to secure him as part of an overhaul of its football department.

Craig said he had felt obligated to take on the caretaker role.

“When I finished in Adelaide, I was pretty clear on that [not coaching again]. These are exceptional circumstances, I guess,” he said.

“You certainly have a sense of responsibility in the end to the playing group, and to the football club in general to be part of helping the club through.”

This is not a new position for Craig, for he was caretaker coach of the Crows in 2004 when Gary Ayres stood down. He led the Crows into a preliminary final in his first full year, and made five consecutive finals appearances. He quit in July 2011 after a 103-point loss to St Kilda.

Craig said he had reflected on whether he could have done more to help Neeld, who managed just five wins and had a team regularly mauled by rivals.

“You certainly don’t like to see people go through what Mark has gone through over the 18 months. There has been no relief at all in terms of playing performance and off-field issues,” he said.

“Sitting watching it [on Monday], it brings back the emotions, having been through it myself.

“So you do reflect – could you have done it better, could you have done more? In hindsight, you say: ‘You could have done that a bit better, I wish I had done that’.”

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