New Podcast: Mike McArthur-Allen, a coach ahead of his time

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The Ormond Football Club from 1984 – 1990 comfortably stands alongside the greatest performing clubs in the VAFA’s proud history in A-Section. 

The club played off in six Grand Finals, and walked away with the premiership cup on five occasions.  

Mike McArthur-Allen was the coach for every one of those seasons. He is largely credited as the greatest coach the VAFA has ever seen, ahead of his time. And, deservedly so. 

Speaking on the VAFA Legends podcast, McArthur-Allen credited much of his coaching success to the players he had at his disposal at EE Gunn Reserve, throughout his time in charge leaned on his life experiences as a teacher, mentors in David Parkin and Allan Jeans, but also, he was the main driver in moving the club, and VAFA football into the modern era. 

These days, the AFL is broadcast with countless cameras covering every blade of grass. In the 1980’s, apart from the Grand Final, there was little to no vision. Ormond however struck gold gaining access to a camera, and a commentator, every week during those dominant years.

“We were blessed at Ormond through Russell’s generosity. We had a television camera that we could videotape the game, and we had a guy that did it every week, rain hail or shine” said McArthur-Allen.

“Whether he was sitting on top of a building in the rain or whether he was standing on the hill here (Elsternwick Park), and we had a fairly astute commentator in Mark Anderson”

“We videotaped every game that we played and then I on a Sunday would cut that into smaller parts so that players could see the good things we did and a bundle of the bad things we needed to rectify”

“I even had players at times saying they were chasing hard and I’d say ‘look, hang on a second’ and show them a piece of footage, then ask them to tell me if that’s as fast as you can run, and clearly it wasn’t.” 

It was a period of mastery from the man who’s credited with 509 games as coach next to his name. To be that forensic in his analysis when most clubs were relying solely on the talent of the players when they fronted up each Saturday. 

Between 1984 and 1990 the club had a winning record of 73% (87-31-1), to put that into context, the St Kevin’s side of today between 2017 – 2022 is tracking at 79% (74-19) with three premierships from four grand finals. 

These days, when it comes to statistics, everyone is looking for the players who accumulate the most amount of disposals. Or, in the AFL, who can score the highest fantasy points. During the golden era of the Monders, McArthur-Allen was using the vision and marking down areas he felt would be the catalyst to winning games of football, and ultimately the clubs next A-Section premiership. 

“I wasn’t looking for kicks and handballs, I was looking for more intrinsic things like blocking and shepherding and knocking the ball on and making sure that people were running into space” he recalled.

“It is a while ago now but we were ahead of time because we kept better stats than most other clubs, we had stats people work week in week out taking the stats knowing what I was looking for in stats” 

While Ormond may not be sitting in the lofty heights they were 40 years ago, almost all coaching in the VAFA is at the standard set by McArthur-Allen if not even more hands on now than ever before. 

The reigning William Buck Premier premiership coach, Anthony ‘Plugger’ Lynch explained in detail during the 2022 Premiership winning season the reasons why the now famous drones were used during the pre-season. 

Vision has become so ingrained in Australian rules football that it is hard to imagine a time, and a team without it.