Harvey shows method behind the madness
Forget who wins the grand final this year, the coach of the year should be Mark Harvey.
He has already taken the Fremantle Dockers into unchartered waters and he has done it with a mixture of canniness, aggression, and not an inconsiderable amount of skill brought about increased experience in the job and having learned from the master Kevin Sheedy for so many years.
In fact, so many of the Sheedy trademarks are there in the way he coaches.
The belief in others. People would have told you several years ago that Dean Solomon and Chris Tarrant were finished as footballers at Essendon and Collingwood. Solomon because the speed of the game had passed him by and an unhealthy reliance on aggressionr. Harvey harnessed that aggression and got three good years from Solomon. He transformed Tarrant from an erratic, talented but ultimately wasteful key forward into a full back described by Carlton coach Brett Ratten as one who wouldn’t led the breeze through.
Similarly, Harvey grabbed Adam McPhee, an Essendon player whose opinion of his credentials as a midfielder were not backed up by the evidence, and turned him into a tough run-with player.
Harvey saw the ability of unwanted Michael Barlow and took him from Werribee to become a key midfielder.
He defied convention by going to Launceston with a B team to take on the Hawks because he figured (correctly) that by resting his best players Freo had a genuine chance of achieving something in the finals. Hawthorn won in Launceston by 116 points but lost the finals rematch in Perth by 30. Case proved. He did it in the face of almost universal criticism from the pundits but applause from those who have also coached.
He did it without playing favourites. Freo icon Des Headland has spent most of the season languising in the WAFL. And on top of all this he recast his team without losing any effectiveness when Tarrant and Barlow went down and long-time stalwart Paul Haselby ran out of legs and form.
The Dockers have continued to improve under Harvey. This year they finished with 13 wins, up from last year’s six. And they have played a flamboyant brand of football, using the speed and pizzazz of their young players to complement the steadiness of people like Sandilands, McPharlin, Grover, Pavlich and Hayden.
They probably won’t go any further than tonight but Harvey has provided the basis for the next few years. And he, and his team, deserve all the success which comes their way.