Caring coach Teague becomes fitting caretaker


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But it was at Katandra that he first learned about football, winning the best and fairest in the 1998 premiership year as a teenager with a couple of veteran protectors playing alongside him including former Demon Rodney Grinter, who is much more sensible off the field than the reputation he earned for his actions on it would suggest.

Teague’s lack of fear made him stand out but so did his football brain as he navigated his way through the less-than-complicated approach of some opponents.

He took those qualities to North Melbourne as they elevated him from their rookie list to enable him to make his debut under Pagan in 2001.

He played two years under Pagan with the Kangaroos before rejoining him at Carlton in 2004 after battling for opportunity under new North Melbourne coach Dean Laidley.

Pagan knew what he was getting in Teague, a player who would give him everything and prepare well enough to get the best out of himself.

Courage: Teague spoils Lions champion Jonathan Brown in 2005.Credit:Wayne Taylor

The North Melbourne premiership coach, and former Blues mentor, suspects Teague will bring the same positive aspects to his coaching as a caretaker.

“He fits the perfect mould of so many coaches who haven’t been superstar players but understand what is required and what goes through the minds of footballers,” Pagan said.

Although Carlton struggled during his time as a player, Teague competed hard and was a shining light in his first season at the club. He played exactly 50 games between 2004 and 2006, delisted at the end of 2007 after a year in the VFL.

This period is his second coming at the Blues having dipped his toe in the coaching water after his playing career ended as a development coach and a standalone coach of the Northern Bullants, which he led into the 2009 and 2010 VFL grand finals (also fitting in the odd game back at Katandra when he could).

He was just 27 when he began as a VFL coach but he made the environment fun at the Bullants, with players who played under him surprised by his maturity as he confidently articulated what was required.

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He took what others have described as his caring qualities to West Coast and Adelaide, where he led the 2017 Crows forward line that nearly landed the club a flag, before needing to return to Victoria for family reasons, signing what was understood to be a three-year deal with the Blues at the start of last season.

Such was the impression he made on his players was that West Australian Mitch McGovern was happy to throw his lot in at Carlton to be back under Teague, who he knew could bring out his best football.

Now he has the reins at Carlton for the final 11 games of the season, with the confidence of the group at rock bottom and the club seemingly in turmoil.

The first thing he will do is bring some life is brought back to the group, ensuring the staff and the players have as good a time as is possible given the circumstances, lightening the load and letting the players run without fear as he did way back 21 years ago in country football.

Peter Ryan is a sports reporter with The Age covering AFL, horse racing and other sports.

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