Port Adelaide assistant Phil Walsh has been appointed the head coach of AFL club Adelaide.
New Adelaide coach Phil Walsh received plenty of calls and text messages on Tuesday.
It’s like that when you’ve been in the AFL system since debuting in 1983 and coaching for more than 15 years.
But there was one well-wisher that was particularly poignant for Walsh, who had been an unheralded but vital part of Port Adelaide’s coaching panel during two stints.
It was Caron Bailey, wife of good friend Dean who died of cancer in March.
“It made me quite emotional,” Walsh, who delivered a eulogy at Bailey’s funeral, said in Adelaide.
“She said Dean would have a little bit of a giggle about this and it really did resonate with me.”
Dean Bailey and Walsh formed a close bond during their time at Port, where both men were unheralded figures in the 2004 premiership.
Bailey went on to join Melbourne, where he was ruthlessly sacked despite making some gains, then Adelaide.
Walsh had happily enjoyed relative anonymity as an assistant coach at Port, West Coast and again at Port when he returned for the 2014 season.
But when Adelaide recently expressed interest following the axing of Brenton Sanderson, there was a sense of now or never.
“Anyone who has done what I’ve done probably deserves a chance to be a senior coach,” said Walsh, who started his post-playing career almost 20 years ago, working as Geelong’s strength and conditioning guru.
“I’m 54 years old, (an offer is) probably not going to come around again.
“I tell my kids to chase their dreams, so I probably don’t want to look back 70 years old and think what might have been.”
A near-death experience two years ago in Peru helped instil that mindset.
“I don’t drink alcohol anymore, try not to drive a car. Try and spend as much time with the people who are important, I try not to judge people as much as I did,” Walsh said.
Walsh signed a three-year contact and urged everyone connected to the Crows to “stick fat”.
Walsh suggested his first order of business was to “get inside the club and listen”, instead of relying on second-hand accounts of Sanderson’s downfall.
He planned to contact every player on the Crows’ list in the next two days, warning that “success doesn’t come looking for you” and that he would only pick players who put the team first.
The man who played 122 games in a career that spanned eight seasons and three clubs famously said in February that “if I was in Adelaide I couldn’t ever see myself working for any other club (than Port)”.
On Tuesday Walsh paid tribute to Port coach Ken Hinkley as someone he admired who had taught him “so much in such a short period of time”.
But he was forthright when asked about allegiances.
“The other 17 clubs are the enemy,” Walsh said.
*Hails from Hamilton in country Victoria
*Played with Collingwood, Richmond and Brisbane (122 games, 1983-90)
*Won the Brisbane Bears’ inaugural best and fairest award in 1987
*Started coaching career as Geelong’s fitness guru under Gary Ayres in 1995
*Worked under Mark Williams (Port Adelaide), John Worsfold (West Coast) and Ken Hinkley (Port)
*Signed a three-year contract to be the Crows’ head coach, being picked ahead of Brendon Bolton and Stuart Dew
PORT VETERAN KANE CORNES:
“The Crows have got a good one. Game on!”