Brave Pyke walks with head held high

It is a brave, ethical man who decides to stand down from an AFL senior coaching position while he is still under contract if he feels he is part of the problem.

In effect Don Pyke is accepting full responsibility for the disappointments of the last two years.

It is a decision that he has deliberated over for some weeks now.

He does not get the big payout from which a sacked coach would normally benefit: it was simply the right thing to do.

The much-publicised review is still ongoing so no determinations or conclusions have been made.

Nevertheless, there are those who will say he has jumped before he could be pushed.

That is not the case.

Outgoing Crows coach Don Pyke, chairman Rob Chapman and CEO Andrew Fagan talk to the media at West Lakes on Thursday. Picture: AAP/Emma Brasier
Outgoing Crows coach Don Pyke, chairman Rob Chapman and CEO Andrew Fagan talk to the media at West Lakes on Thursday.

Don Pyke has not “lost the playing group” and there will be players that are devastated that he has resigned.

Conversely, there will be underperforming players who will be pleased to see him go.

They are the ones who have been quick to blame their inadequacies on the coach.

They sow the seeds of discontent and divide a playing group. The complaints filter down to their families and then, for those who have a direct line to mischievous journalists, into the public arena.

The Adelaide Crows’ disastrous slide since the 2017 Grand Final has left Don Pyke “frustrated” and admitting he is to bl…

Pyke suffered too much from the whispers emanating from the club and leaking out into the wider football population.

However, for all the negative propaganda that undermined Pyke’s task and demeaned the achievement of 2017, there is one undeniable fact — the coach is ultimately responsible.

The record always speaks for itself and particularly when measured against expectations, the stark reality is that the past two seasons have been failures.

It could be excused if the team was blooding new talent and playing bold, exciting football only to be beaten by better teams but the Crows young players appeared to languish in the SANFL team.

Adelaide Crows football manager Brett Burton and coach Don Pyke speak to the media about the club’s relationship with Collective Mind in June 2018. Picture: Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images
Adelaide Crows football manager Brett Burton and coach Don Pyke speak to the media about the club’s relationship with Collective Mind in June 2018.

After 2017 when the club reached the grand final on the back of exciting, adventurous football the team inexplicably lapsed into a negative, safe, careful style of football.

Supporters are not always able to offer objective assessments of their teams’ performance but the Crows fans had it right when they complained about the dearth of youngsters in the team and its frustrating performances.

Don Pyke was not sacked but he is an intelligent, intuitive man. The “review” may not be complete but he has accepted his role in the team’s disappointments.

He follows ex-skipper Taylor Walker in standing down. That’s two victims.

In a football world where success can only judged by winning premierships, Malcolm Blight is the only successful coach in the 29 year history of the Adelaide Football Club.

Don Pyke leaves from the club without that measure of success.

There are other ways of measuring a coach’s tenure. Has he guided the club skilfully through difficult times? Pyke has.

Did he give his team the best possible chance to win a flag? By taking them to the 2017 grand final, Pyke certainly did.

However, the flag slipped away and the team has dropped to 11th position on the ladder. Although the coach is not entirely responsible, the playing list is ageing and in need of reshaping.

It is difficult to equate the mediocre performances of 2018 and 2019 and the current state of the playing list with success but Pyke can walk away with his head held high and his integrity intact.

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