North Melbourne coach Rhyce Shaw is taking an extended leave from the AFL for personal reasons but speculation has already begun that he might not return to the head coaching role at the club.
Shaw was brought in to the Kangaroos’ top job in August 2019 but the side had a horror 2020 season, winning just three games to finish ahead of only the Adelaide Crows – and only on percentage.
North was reportedly forced to go public with what the club says is a private matter because of “ridiculous rumours” swirling about the former Collingwood and Sydney Swans star.
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Shaw took leave immediately after the Kangaroos’ final game of the season against West Coast after a tough season in the hub.
The extended break will likely mean Shaw will be away from the club during the trade and draft period.
The coach has taken an extended break from coaching for personal reasons, which The Age reports is “well-known within AFL football and media circles”.
It also reported that the AFL “had been briefed on the Shaw situation”, with CEO Gillon McLachlan informed of his absence.
Richmond coach Damien Hardwick wished Shaw a “speedy recovery” after his side qualified for the grand final on Friday night.
“People like Rhyce Shaw don’t grow on trees,” Hardwick said. “He’s a special human … we just wish he bounces back very quickly because people like him are great to have in the industry.”
NORTH’S LETTER TO ITS MEMBERS
In a letter to fans and members, Kangaroos chairman Ben Buckley revealed that the club were “respecting the wishes of Rhyce and his family” having not commented on speculation around the coach.
“Rhyce has asked for some time and space away from football and we have provided him support during this period,” he said. “We thank the media for their ongoing co-operation and trust they understand we can’t make further comment at this time.
“In the meantime we will forge ahead. From a board perspective, our decision-making centres around one ambition: how we can build a team and a football program that will win our fifth flag.”
Shaw took over after Brad Scott’s tenure finished, claiming four wins from his first five games in 2019 before the Kangaroos finished 17th in a 2020 season to forget.
Although he is contracted for next season and the Kangaroos have said he would be welcomed back at the club when he has recovered, AFL.com.au reported that “the club has privately accepted that if he was to return, it would not be as senior coach”.
WHO WILL NEXT COACH BE?
While the Roos have tried to get former Swans premiership coach Paul Roos in a part-time leadership mentoring role, Swans senior assistant coach John Blakey has also been signed for 2021.
SEN senior reporter Sam Edmund claimed it is “almost certain Shaw won’t be coaching” North Melbourne in 2021.
“The club tonight chose to put it in the public domain. It always planned to put a letter out to members and felt they had to address what had really become a massive elephant in the room,” Edmund told SEN.
“The rumours had been ridiculous and damaging and massively untrue, so the Roos felt they had to act in some way.
“The Kangaroos had permission from Rhyce and his family to use the exact words they did in that statement.”
He reported North Melbourne has started looking for a replacement coach for 2021 – and Roos will be on the appointment panel on a part-time basis.
The report claims new assistant coach Blakey does not have aspirations to be the head coach next year.
But AFL.com.au said that former Brisbane coach and champion and Port Adelaide senior assistant Michael Voss is a person of interest for the club.
The Herald Sun’s Mark Robinson said ex-Fremantle boss Ross Lyon was “certain to be approached”.