AFL 2019: How David Teague rose from the coaching scrapheap to become an unlikely coach of Carlton

This time five years ago David Teague cut a forlorn figure at the Linen House Centre.

As St Kilda’s defensive coach, he was overseeing an area of the club which grossly underperformed in 2014.

In Alan Richardson’s first year, Teague was in the exact position several assistants find themselves in at the moment. Jobless.

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Conceding an average of 110.7 points per game and winning just four matches for the season was enough for St Kilda’s hierarchy to sack him. understands Teague contemplated removing himself from the AFL industry altogether. He considered finishing his teaching degree and coaching at suburban level. But Phil Walsh, with whom Teague had worked alongside at West Coast (2011-2013) before the Saints, came calling.

Walsh and Adelaide chief Andrew Fagan offered the former Blues and North hard man a deal to become the club’s forwards coach.



From a defensive set up which was leaking like a sieve to one of the most exciting goalkicking groups in the competition, Teague landed on a gold mine and he was about to get rich.

During the 2015, 2016 and 2017 seasons, Adelaide kicked more goals than any other team in the league. Teague was hailed as a hero, a genius, and an integral component in the Crows’ run to the Grand Final in the last of those seasons.

Eddie Betts, Taylor Walker and Josh Jenkins all booted 45 or more majors, while Tom Lynch lived up to his reputation as the AFL’s best connector, taking more marks than any other forward in the league. Teague was the mastermind.

David Teague at Adelaide in 2017. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
David Teague at Adelaide in 2017. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

Walsh’s tragic death had impacted Teague in 2015 just as it did for all coaches and players at West Lakes. The two were tight from their time together in Perth and without Walsh’s lifeline, Teague may never have coached again at the elite level.

So when a personal tragedy struck his family in 2017, Teague sought a move home to Melbourne with his young family.


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Collingwood aggressively pursued Teague as part of its football department rejig, but he chose the Blues and penned a three-year deal as the club’s forwards coach.

Those close to Brendon Bolton say the duo did not necessarily see eye-to-eye throughout his senior coaching tenure, but when Bolton walked out of his final press conference at Ikon Park, Teague stood and applauded. Different philosophies did not equate to a toxic relationship.

And when Teague strolled downstairs to buy coffees for his fellow assistants on that same afternoon at Ikon Park, he was asked by three waiting journalists whether he would be the caretaker. He denied he had been asked, but 20 minutes later a press release was emailed out.

Teague after the recent win over Adelaide. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)
Teague after the recent win over Adelaide. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

At the time, Chris Judd – a powerful figure on the club’s selection panel – said Carlton did not require a coach who had “training wheels.” The comment was widely seen as a jab at Teague, but Judd denied those implications.

In an earlier episode of Footy Classified, Judd also said Teague was “unlikely” to get the gig.

At the time, Teague’s ascension to the top role was as implausible as a player climbing a post to stop an opposition last-gasp victory. Nobody thought it would happen, least of all the man himself.

But two scores of 100 in his first month in charge and another score of 99 a fortnight later allowed Bluebaggers to dream of a Teague future. During Bolton’s last 75 games at the helm, Carlton managed 100 points just once. The distinction in style was stunning.

Teague won five of nine matches as Blues caretaker coach. (AAP Image/Julian Smith)
Teague won five of nine matches as Blues caretaker coach. (AAP Image/Julian Smith)Source: AAP

If #Trump2020 has taken certain portions of America by storm, then #Teague2020 was Lygon Street’s equivalent. Teague was trendy and trending. But unlike Trump, his game plan was widely applauded.

Four wins across the club’s previous 43 matches were matched within Teague’s first five weeks in the job. Marc Murphy the midfielder was moved back to the midfield and Charlie Curnow the forward – before injury ended his season – was suddenly a stay at home forward.

It wasn’t rocket science, but it worked.

Players such as Jack Silvagni felt empowered, fans relished the upturn in aesthetics, and staff members charged with PR and marketing breathed a sigh of relief. The Fremantle win at Optus Stadium was especially uplifting.

He has risen from the coaching scrapheap just five years ago and Teague is now the proud owner of his own train. It’s an express service too.


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