THEpassing of Dean Bailey is terribly sad.

Anyloss of life is. But forgetting what he achieved in almost 30 years of VFL/AFLinvolvement – 47 years old is just far too young.

Related: Vale Dean Bailey | Dean Bailey timeline

Deanwas a father, husband and family man; a friend and mentor to many.

Footballcomes way down the chart – as it should – when reflecting on his life, yet itwas this craft that he excelled at.

Iwon’t profess to say I knew Dean like many or like he was my nearest and dearest.That would be folly. But I was fortunate enough – in my position as an AFLwriter – to have known him, worked with him and have many encounters with Dean.

Andwhat I knew of Dean I really liked; he was a ripping fella. A great bloke.   

TheDean I saw was a captivating character; a genuine person, with a dry, quirkysense of humour. I found him humble, pragmatic and very likeable. His patience,realism and wit were traits that stood out. His thoughts and insights into thegame were fascinating. All of my dealings with him were positive.

Ifirst met Dean in a one-on-one situation at the MCG in 2007. It was a couple ofweeks after I’d attended his first media conference, where he was unveiled asMelbourne’s new coach. It was a fine effort to win the role, given he initiallyanswered the call via a newspaper advertisement and got the nod ahead of KevinSheedy, Chris Connolly, Damien Hardwick and Mark Riley.

Iwaited for Dean in an MCG corporate suite. Media manager Ryan Larkin hadorganised the interview – it was when I was working for – and it wasDean’s first one-on-one as Melbourne coach.

Iwas excited, nervous and full of anticipation. Being a Demon fan, I was curiousto see what the new coach was like, given in my almost 31 years up until thatpoint, I could only remember Ron Barassi, John Northey, Neil Balme, caretakerGreg Hutchison and Neale Daniher at the helm.

Deanwas held up a little bit, after being delayed from the airport. He wasobviously a busy and in demand man, given his gig to coach the oldest footballclub in the AFL. 

Oncehe arrived, I spoke to Dean for roughly 45 to 60 minutes and I was struck byseveral things.

Firstly,I was fully appreciative of the time he had taken to spend with me for theinterview. He spoke highly of past teammates, coaches and administrators whohad helped him in his football journey – dating back to his time at NorthRingwood, where he was recruited from as a player by Essendon.

Hishumbleness and ability to remember the people who had helped him get to wherehe was at that point was really noticeable.

Healso offered some fascinating insights into the game and his thoughts about theDemons at the time.

Whenhe spoke, he used his hands to express his thoughts. I liked this trait of hisbecause it often showed the passion he had for the game, his players and club –even when he had his game face on.

Icame away from that first interview captivated by his personality.

Itcertainly wasn’t a knock in any way, but I thought he could be the most intimidating,laid back person I’d ever met. I know that’s a contradiction, but he made youfeel comfortable, but you had to be on your toes.

Ithink it was because sometimes he would take a few seconds to answer yourquestion. He would give expansive answers, but sometimes you wondered what hewas going to say.

Insome ways, I wondered if it was his dry sense of humour at play and hismatter-of-fact demeanour. Still, he was engaging company.

Overthe next couple of years, I attended many of Dean’s training and post match mediaconferences. His humour would come out as he got more comfortable in the media.Sometimes he was dead pan. He would often arrive at media conferences walkingslowly, calmly and upright. He would twitch his neck sometimes and raise hiseyebrow and repeat inane questions that all journalists are guilty of. But itwas all with an element of humour.

Buthe was also genuinely serious in media conferences and that came to the fore.

“Itis what it is,” was a line Dean often used in media conferences.

Hisfirst two seasons at Melbourne were really tough – just seven wins came in2008-09 – but genuine progress came in 2010. I was fortunate enough to joinMelbourne that year and he quickly made me feel welcome and I thank him forthat.

The2010 season proved to be Dean’s best season at the Demons and it looked asthough things were on the way up. As history now shows, he was sacked by theclub after Melbourne’s disastrous 186-point loss to Geelong.

Itwas terrible to see a good person go through this. 

Toooften people in football – be it at clubs, the media or fans – call for blood. It’seasy to say; hard to watch when you’re close to it.

Tobe involved in a club when a public figure has been removed from their job isunsettling to see. It humanises the moment. And unfortunately, there have beenseveral people leave Melbourne in unfortunate circumstances in recent years. Allclubs have been guilty of unsavory exits – and in some ways it’s a terriblebyproduct of the game – but in fairness, the game has also come a long way.  It will never be perfect though, given theemotion and energy involved.

Ican remember seeing Dean pack his belongings into some boxes, before departing.It was quite surreal and not great to see anyone go through. I rememberspeaking to him briefly, thanking him and wishing him all the best. I felt likea bumbling fool trying to say something. He was still kind enough to have aquick chat in that situation.

Deanhad a tough time at Melbourne. His record wasn’t flattering, but statisticsdon’t always tell the real story. He made a significant impact at the club andparticularly some of the club’s leaders today: think Jack Grimes, Colin Garlandand Jack Trengove, who all spoke glowingly of their former coach o Tuesday.

Unlikeseveral staff members who remain at Melbourne today – such as manager offootball operations Josh Mahoney – I only had a year working with Dean. But Ienjoyed many chats along the way with him and he always helped me out wherepossible and I thank him for that.

Therewere a few humourous moments with Dean.

Iremember once when I was talking music with Dean, he happened to start playinga few tunes on his laptop. He would play a few seconds of certain songs andthen switch to another. He would sing a few lines and then click to thenext. 

Atone point, Dean clicked on the song PolkSalad Annie by Tony Joe White. A 1969 number that Dean hadn’t heard for awhile, I’d say.

“TonyJoe White,” Dean said in a Blues-like voice.

Hethen started bobbling his head from side-to-side and sang a few lines. It wasquite hilarious to see a senior AFL coach enjoying a moment away from theintense spotlight for a moment. Those who would’ve known him best, I’m surewould’ve seen plenty of humourous moments.  

Anothertime, I remember Dean telling a story to a handful of journos – and he waswell-liked by the media – about Hawthorn great Don Scott, who coached him as ajunior. Dean toured Ireland as part of a schoolboy team, before he made hisVFL/AFL debut with Essendon in 1986. He recalled how Scott would drive him totraining. It was Dean’s impression of Scott’s voice – without offending him –that had the journos in stitches.

Infact, I reckon Dean would’ve been a great comedian, such was his deadpanhumour. But he was able to show that side somewhat on shows such as Before the Game, where his humour cameto the fore.

Notsurprisingly, once he left Melbourne, he quickly bounced back, briefly as acommentator with 1116 SEN, before being snapped up by Adelaide, as innovationsand strategy coach. Judging by the outpouring of tributes at the club, he toomade a genuine impact on players, coaches and staff alike.

Deanplayed 53 VFL/AFL matches for the Bombers, was involved in two AFL premiershipsas a development/assistant coach with Essendon (2000) and Port Adelaide (2004)respectively and coached at the highest level with Melbourne from 2008-11.

Hetasted the highs and the lows football has to offer, but achieved much morethan most in a football lifetime.

Heearned respect throughout the football community, was popular with players,coaches, football staff, administrators, media and fans alike. The care heshowed many was there to be seen.

Hedidn’t seek the limelight, but understood his role in the game.

Baileywon’t be lauded as an Essendon great in the manner of Tim Watson or a coachinggreat such as Norm Smith at Melbourne, but those in the football fraternitywill hold him in the highest regard.

Yethe was lauded as a family man, friend, mentor and great person by many. And atthe end of the day that far outweighs any achievement made on or off thefootball field. That legacy is what his nearest and dearest can be proud of most.

Iextend my deepest sympathies and thoughts to Dean’s wife Caron, sons Darcy andMitchell, his extended family, friends and colleagues. I didn’t have the privilegeto know him as well as many, but I’m so glad to have known just a part of him.

Forthat I am sincerely grateful.

Restin peace Dean.