ONE of the game’s greatest figures – Paul Roos – has been named Melbourne’s new coach for the next two seasons, with an option to extend for a third year.
The 50-year-old will become the 30th person to coach Melbourne since it became a foundation VFL/AFL club in 1897. He has replaced Neil Craig, who was interim coach, following the mid-season departure of Mark Neeld.
Roos, who played 356 VFL/AFL matches (269 with Fitzroy and 87 with Sydney) from 1982-98, later coached the Swans from 2002-10. There, he guided the club to the 2005 flag – a thrilling four-point win and its first in 72 years – breaking the longest premiership drought in VFL/AFL history.
He coached the Swans to seven finals series from eight full seasons, including six in a row from 2003-08. (It equaled the club’s best effort from 2009-14, although it had four coaches during that period: Charlie Ricketts, Bill Thomas, Harvey Kelly and Vic Belcher.) Roos also led Sydney to the 2005-06 Grand Finals, with his team losing the ’06 clash by just the narrowest of margins.
Roos coached the Swans in 202 matches – the most in their club’s history, before stepping down from the post, where he handed over the duties to former assistant and now incumbent, John Longmire.
Melbourne’s acquisition of Roos is monumental, given he has been on the radar of several AFL clubs since stepping down at the end of 2010. He has been widely regarded as one of the finest coaches of the modern era.
His legacy at the Swans – to oversee the building of a club and produce sustained success – has remained today under Longmire, who guided Sydney to the 2012 premiership. The Swans remain one of this year’s favourites to win their third flag.
As a player Roos, remains one of the all-time greats. Only 10 players have featured in more VFL/AFL games. In his prime, he was regarded by many as the best footballer in the game.
A member of the Australian Football Hall of Fame and named in Fitzroy’s team of the century, Roos was originally recruited from Beverley Hills in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, before making his VFL/AFL debut in 1982.
He started his career as a winger, but soon blossomed into one of the finest ‘swingmen’ the game has seen, able to play in a key post at either end of the ground.
By his fourth season, in 1985, Roos ran third in the Brownlow Medal. He fell one short in 1986, when he finished with 16 votes to Hawthorn’s Robert DiPierdomenico and Sydney’s Greg Williams, who both tied for the medal with 17 votes. Many believed Roos was unlucky not to win the 1986 Brownlow, after he didn’t poll in round 22, but was regarded as Fitzroy’s best player in its win over Sydney.
Roos also played in Fitzroy’s much revered 1986 series. He incredibly played in the 1986 preliminary final with an ankle injury, when many other Lions were injured. It proved to be the club’s last ever final.
But his 1986 was still recognised by the AFLPA, when he was named MVP.
Roos captained Fitzroy from 1988-90 and again in 1992-94. A five-time Fitzroy best and fairest winner (1985-86, 1991-92 and 1994), Roos also finished third in 1987 and 1989. In 1990, he led Fitzroy’s goalkicking.
He was All-Australian seven times (1985, 1987-88, 1991-92 and 1996-97), including captain in 1991-92.
A Victorian representative 14 times, Roos won the inaugural E.J. Whitten Medal in 1985 and again in 1988. He also led the Big V in 1992-93 and represented Australia against Ireland in the International Rules series in 1986-87.
During the 1980s, Roos suffered serious calcification of his thigh and he later wore a guard to protect it.
Roos had numerous offers to join opposition clubs during his career and in 1991 he almost went to Collingwood. He opted to stay at Fitzroy and was relieved of the captaincy, before regaining it in 1992.
After a stellar career at the Lions from 1982-94, which included 270 goals, Roos joined the Swans in 1995. He and the game’s greatest goalkicker, Tony Lockett, were a massive coup for the Harbour City and not surprisingly proved outstanding acquisitions.
Roos’ running game became a key part of Sydney’s side, along with his leadership and education. He spent the majority of his time in defence and kicked 19 goals.
In 1996, Roos played in Sydney’s Grand Final against North Melbourne. Although the Swans lost by 43 points, Roos was regarded as his side’s best player. Lockett also kicked six goals.
A much respected and liked player among opposition fans, Roos was reported just once in his 17-year career – and was found not guilty of abusive language in 1989.
At the start of 1998, he was the oldest and most experienced player in the game and by the time he played his last AFL match for Sydney – in its semi-final loss to Adelaide – he was 35 years old.
After time in the media during 1999-2000, Roos became an assistant coach with Sydney in 2001, under Rodney Eade, who also coached him at the Swans in his playing days.
He took over from Eade during 2002 and did a fine job in 10 matches.
Then Western Bulldogs coach Terry Wallace looked set to coach the Swans in 2003, but ‘people power’ swayed Sydney and Roos was installed as coach. It became a master stroke for the club.
History shows Roos’ contribution to the game has been matched by only a select few and his recruitment to Melbourne looms as one of the club’s biggest moments in the club’s history.