A sharp football brain and attacking mindset key to Ratten's AFL coaching success
As a champion Carlton footballer over 14 seasons, Brett Ratten had few peers. He also happens to be among the best people I've met in a lifetime of journalism.
No wonder Ratten is loved by everyone at St Kilda, particularly the players who have responded positively to his methods - he is honest, genuine, caring, has a great connection with people and understands how to build relationships.
So it comes as no surprise that in his initial full season as Saints coach he has lifted them into the finals for the first time since 2011.
Ratten, 49, was destined to be successful in his second incarnation as a senior AFL coach. Speak to anyone in footy and they will tell you 'Ratts' has one of the sharpest minds in the game. Essentially, he has an attacking mindset but can adapt when the situation requires a different approach.
Being sacked by the club he loved hurt him deeply, but only served to strengthen his resolve. He took up an offer from Alastair Clarkson and he learnt from the best while making a considerable contribution.
Ratten knew he wanted to be a coach long before he retired as a player in 2003. His former coach David Parkin told me many years ago that the star midfielder had sought his advice about his chosen path.
Ratten had Carlton on the right trajectory, with three consecutive finals appearances, and should not have been sacked as coach at the end of 2012. In many ways, the Blues are still paying the price for that grave error of judgment. Not that he did not make mistakes at Carlton. He took on too much responsibility and did not delegate enough, failings he has clearly addressed.
Off the field, at St Kilda, he has a strong team behind him, led by general manager of football performance Simon Lethlean.
I am proud to call 'Ratts' a good friend. I've sought his counsel on many matters football and otherwise and he has always been there.
Our families have enjoyed joyous occasions together - our wedding, my 60th birthday, dinners at our house and restaurants, barbecues at his holiday house - and sadly my wife Lulu and I were at the funeral of his beloved son Cooper, killed in a car accident.
In the past five years, he has tried to put on a brave front, but no doubt Cooper's death has affected him greatly.
It is often said nice guys run last - as a premiership player, three-time best and fairest winner and captain with Carlton, Ratten has an impressive CV and represents a compelling argument to the contrary. Becoming only the second man in St Kilda's history to coach a premiership team would be the crowning glory on a glittering career.
Pick the best by position
It is a tough job selecting the AFL's All-Australian team, but it's tougher for small/medium forwards and wingers to gain the recognition they deserve.
Liam Ryan was named as the team's sole small forward last week, but other specialist forwards - Jack Gunston (31 goals), Dan Butler (27) and Tom Papley (26) were overlooked.
Selectors opted for skipper Patrick Dangerfield, Marcus Bontempelli and Dustin Martin, all midfielders who spend little time in attack, to fill spots in the forward line.
On the wings Jack Macrae and Cameron Guthrie were preferred as Andrew Gaff, Sam Menegola and Hugh McCluggage missed out.
Surely the best players in those positions should be picked and preference not given to midfielders just to put them in the team. If star midfielders are not selected, that's bad luck.
Bad weather sparks debate
Melbourne's notoriously capricious weather struck with a vengeance again last weekend.
There were below-average temperatures last Friday and Saturday, with chilly winds and heavy showers. At 2.30pm on Saturday, the temperature was 12.3 degrees (felt like 9.7) and 12.5 (8.2) at 5pm before dropping to 10.7 (7.2) by 7.30pm.
Why is the weather so significant? Because last Saturday was the scheduled date for the Grand Final had COVID-19 not caused such severe disruption.
Imagine 100,000 fans shivering through the showpiece event, with the mercury sitting on 10.4 (7.2) at the final siren about 10pm. That is what will happen if the AFL sells its soul to the Seven Network and schedules a night Grand Final.
Next month's first night Grand Final at the Gabba is preparing fans for the inevitable, maybe as early as 2021, when the game returns to the MCG.
Melbourne's weather is hard to predict at any time and most Grand Finals have been played in warm, sunny conditions recently, but one thing is for certain - the standard of football is generally better during the day than on a slippery night and a more pleasant experience.
Question of the week
Craig Reid, of Fairy Meadow, NSW, asks: What is the late Dean Jones' legacy as a cricketer?
We were stunned by Jones' sudden death aged 59 in India last week. He was an entertaining, aggressive batsman who changed the way one-day cricket was played, but it should not be forgotten the Victorian right-hander averaged 46.55 in 52 Tests. A brilliant fielder and sharp runner between wickets, his 210 in the oppressive heat and humidity of Chennai in 1986 was his signature Test innings. He later became a respected commentator, particularly in the sub-continent. Email: email@example.com; Twitter: @hpkotton59.
- Supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.