Author Topic: Memorable moment #10: A look back at Leon Daphne's presidency  (Read 1967 times)

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Memorable moment #10: A look back at Leon Daphne's presidency
« on: January 21, 2007, 04:41:23 PM »
Leon Daphne did a one-on-one interview with Mike Sheahan two weeks before he would depart along with Geischen at the end of the 1999 season. Here's a look back at it:

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WE'RE ALL ON NOTICE AT TIGERLAND
Herald-Sun
By MIKE SHEAHAN
Edition 2 FRI 20 AUG 1999, Page 108

MIKE SHEAHAN: Why wasn't Michael Roach in your Team of the Century?

LEON DAPHNE: He was nominated at full-forward only and Jack Titus was 11 times leading goalkicker and played 294 games for 970 goals.

MS: That's good enough. Just wanted to record my support for Roachy. Now, the heavy stuff. I get more letters from Richmond supporters than Father Christmas gets from kids. One finals series in 17 years, no consistency in game plan, general lack of skill, recruiting, use of the younger players . . .

LD: We can't do much about not having won a premiership for 17 years because the team of today is responsible only for today. I've been president for six years so I can take responsibility for six years. We are working very hard to improve (but) it's hard to make radical changes to your playing list.

MS: Why did you tie yourself so tightly to Jeff Gieschen?

LD: The coach was under unfair and unreasonable media criticism and analysis at the start of the year. I just felt he needed a demonstration of clear support from the president and the club, and I thought the only way we could do that was really to tie myself to his tenure.

MS: You said if he goes, you go.

LD: That's correct. He's tied till the end of 2001.

MS: Is that unconditional?

LD: The details of the contract I can't really discuss because that's a matter between the club and Jeff.

MS: Is there an "out" for the Richmond Football Club?

LD: I can't discuss details of the contract.

MS: Why did you commit so long to someone who was a) a relative novice in the coaching ranks, and b) wasn't subject to any poaching rumors?

LD: In '98, we'd had high expectations of finishing in the finals. We get unceremoniously dumped in the last game. There was a lot of angst round the club if the player list was good enough, what was the matter with the club. The board decided Richmond had had too many changes, and decided Jeff should be given the security of understanding the club felt he was the right man for the job, and he could get on with developing the player list. Simple as that. It was a message to the football community he was the man we thought could develop our club.

MS: Why does he appeal so strongly to you?

LD: During 1998, I think he demonstrated an affinity towards the Richmond culture, the Richmond psyche, I guess: hardness and toughness and, I know we overuse this word, passion.

MS: Can you say unequivocally he will coach Richmond next year?

LD: I've said in the last week we'll review every position after the season. All of us need to review whether we're doing well enough and how we might all improve. A small committee of us is working out now how to handle that process. As far as giving anyone unequivocal support, I just can't do that, subject to that review.

MS: Who does the review?

LD: It's going to be an internal review, and that will involve everyone at board level and management, including Jeff. There's no doubt everyone, including Jeff, is frustrated and disappointed that we're probably going to be facing up to, unless we have wins in the next two games, our worst season since 1993. That's something we need to look at and see if we can only improve by digging in harder, or we need to think about other ways to improve. Changes in people.

MS: What's that mean?

LD: I'm not planning any revolution, but it might mean in some areas of the club, maybe the board, maybe the president, or maybe the match committee, we need to look at how we can improve. It covers the whole spectrum.

MS: If the president, who has declared his undying support for the coach, is on the review panel, the coach would look pretty safe, wouldn't he?

LD: He might, yeah, but I don't want to be unequivocal because I think we all need to take stock of where we are. The board will be really asking the match committee to challenge the potential of our players.
Are we only a year away or is it necessary to be prepared to make some exchanges? Unfortunately, it's a tough time for the players.

MS: The Northey affair. In retrospect, should you have extended his contract (beyond 1995)?

LD: We may well have, but John walked out when no one wanted him to go.

MS: He said on 3AW on Saturday he wasn't seeking extra money, just an extended tenure.

LD: Is that right? He should have told us.

MS: Did he not come and say I want an extension of my contract?

LD: No. He said to me, "What are you going to do about my contract?" And I said, "What do you mean?" And he said, "I've got us into the finals." (Northey had 12 months to run on his contract). Then we spoke about some issues he had with the club and we agreed to meet again in two to three weeks to organise a meeting to discuss the issues. I said, "In the meantime, do you want me to put anything specific to the board?" He said "no". Before I could organise that meeting to look at some of the issues that John had, he'd left for Brisbane.
If I had my time over again, I would think harder about whether we would have just made him coach or stopped him coaching anyone else. We could have just insisted on it, but it was obvious he didn't want to be with us.

MS: That's not why "Swooper" (Northey) and Tony Free weren't invited to the Team of the Century?

LD: We invited all the people who were selected and their families. Most other people paid to come. Tony Free has spoken to me about it. He rang me. I think "Freezer" is fantastic. It's most unfortunate he's still not with us. One of the critical things that happened to this team in its development was to lose Tony Free. Twice best and fairest, fantastic leader. The dinner was well-publicised and if Tony was desperate to come, he could have bought a ticket.

MS: Swooper?

LD: We couldn't invite everybody. We had to pay for the bloody thing.

MS: Did you make any money?

LD: I haven't had a return yet, but we're expecting to make about $70,000 on the whole week.

MS: What are the pluses this year?

LD: The form of Wayne Campbell. I think Wayne is demonstrating he's now in the really top echelon of midfielders. The improvement of Matthew Richardson. I don't think there are many pluses to be honest.

MS: You ripped into the players after the Melbourne game last year. Did they let the club down?

LD: It wasn't so much they'd let the club down. I just wanted them to understand what a shocking thing it was for the football department and for them. They were going off on a break for 6-8 weeks, and I just wanted everyone to be very sure that everyone at the club was really hurting after such high expectations.

MS: How do you feel now?

LD: I feel very disappointed, but I don't think there's any point continuing to harangue people. You've got to look for ways to improve.
You've got to understand why we have not improved. Look, that might be very simple; it might be that we're just not good enough. If that's the case, we have to understand that and face up to it, then do something about it.
We're going to make sure the match committee goes through as rigorous a process of review as it ever has. We might be one season off being premiers.

MS: Yeah?

The top team, Essendon, where'd you have 'em at the start of the year?


LD: Can't remember.

MS: Seriously.

LD: Round about . . . 12th.

MS: Talking about Essendon, what about the rumored interest in Kevin Sheedy? Again.

LD: Look, all I can say on that is it's total speculation, and people at Richmond have been speculating on Kevin Sheedy coaching Richmond since 1981.

MS: Are you in a position to be frank and honest with me on Sheedy?

LD: I can tell you frankly and honestly that Kevin Sheedy coaching Richmond is total speculation.

MS: Is it possible he could coach Richmond next year?

LD: That's speculation, too. He could sign with Essendon tomorrow. Jeff Gieschen's coaching Richmond. I tried to get Kevin Sheedy to come to Richmond when John Northey left, but he was contracted to Essendon.
Kevin referred us to Essendon and I spoke to David Shaw (then president) and he said no. We didn't think that, unless there was a release, it was appropriate to push on.
Brisbane didn't endear themselves to me in doing what they did (taking Northey). I thought it was very poor form, and they got their right deserts. The Lord moves in mysterious ways. I think it was totally unethical. No one rang me. I guess I wouldn't rule out taking someone who was under contract, because you've got to do what you can for your footy club, but in that circumstance I thought it was poetic justice for the Brisbane Football Club.

MS: Is that the last time you've had any discussion with Sheedy coming to Richmond?

LD: Um, yes, in any sort of serious way.

MS: So, there's no one, either you or people representing you, who has spoken to him or people representing him about coaching at Richmond next year?

LD: I couldn't comment on that. (Pause) I just couldn't comment. It's just speculation, right. Are you asking Eddie McGuire if he (Sheedy) is coaching Collingwood? I presume it's because he hasn't signed with Essendon. I spoke to Jeff today telling him Kevin Sheedy coaching Richmond is total speculation. All we want to do is start preparing to finish the season well.

MS: Did Jeff ask you if you could assure him you weren't interested in Sheedy?

LD: Nuh. It's been a tough year for "Giesch" and I'd like him to finish the season strongly.

MS: Could the last two games influence what happens over summer?

LD: I don't think so, no, but it is important that we don't drop our bundle and just drift into the ether. We need to show we've got a bit of spunk.

MS: Which is the tougher job, Nissan or Richmond?

LD: I don't really run Richmond. I would like to think I'm chairman of a board that runs the club. It's harder in a sense at the footy club because I've got an emotional component, and the input of the supporter base. Supporters are much more emotional about their football than customers are about cars.

MS: How do you appraise your performance at Richmond over six years?

LD: That's a pretty hard question to answer, but I'll try. I don't think I've been a successful president because in the end, you can only judge success by success on the field. So I haven't been a successful president. I really feel quite unsuccessful. Having said that, I feel that the last six years have really consolidated a financial stability that has protected the club from merger or liquidation. Mind you, that's only a year-to-year proposition. If the Richmond members don't turn out next year, it would severely put the club at risk.

MS: What was your expectation pre-season?

LD: I felt we were a final eight side; sixth or seventh or eighth. So, that's disappointing, we've dropped right away. We could end up a bottom four side.

MS: Are people performing for their future in the next fortnight?

LD: Yeah, I think so, but I don't know. Yes, the next fortnight might be important, but the season's on display already. It is important we don't collapse.

MS: You're up for re-election this year. Do you want to stay?

LD: Yes, I do. I feel a bit of an obligation to the club. It's been quite humbling and a great honor to be president of the football club you barrack for.

MS: What about your old mate, Browny?

LD: Malcolm and I seem to have an annual challenge. We had a pretty candid chat about things about 6-8 weeks ago. I guess our relationship isn't terrific because we disagree on so many different things. I think we've both got the same objective, but we disagree on how to go about getting there. If he thinks he's got something to offer, he should put himself up again.

MS: Ashley Prescott's departure last summer?

LD: Ashley Prescott left under a fair amount of acrimony. We thought we made a fair offer in the end to Ashley, and Fremantle made a better offer. Ash was a terrific club man, a pretty solid player for us. The players were disappointed to see him go, but I think in the end the club was able to explain it made a fair offer.

MS: But he was put up for trade.

LD: Yes. In the end, we put an offer on the table. He didn't accept it, and he accepted Fremantle's offer, and we got nothing for him.
Indirectly, we got Clay Sampson in the pre-season draft.