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THE cut-throat nature of the AFL coaching caper has claimed four victims this year.
Brendan Bolton (Carlton), Brad Scott (North Melbourne), Alan Richardson (St Kilda) and Ross Lyon (Fremantle) have all been shown the door from their clubs in 2019.
Unless you've walked in the shoes of an AFL coach, you're never going to get a grasp of the pressure associated with the job, particularly when the furnace of heat is turned up when a coach's future comes under intense scrutiny and eventually reaches breaking point.
Damian Drum lived that pressure during a coaching stint with the Fremantle Dockers that began in 1999 and ultimately ended the same way as it has for Bolton, Scott, Richardson and Lyon this year.
Back in 2006 when he was the then-sitting North West Province Nationals member and had previously coached Bendigo's VFL team, the Diggers in 2002, Drum sat down with the Bendigo Advertiser to give an insight into the pressures associated with coaching an AFL club and how he dealt with his Fremantle sacking.
Drum spent eight years working his way through the coaching system, firstly in the VFL with Port Melbourne and Werribee and then five years as an assistant at the Sydney Swans under Ron Barassi and Rodney Eade.
Also a former Geelong player - he played 63 games for the Cats between 1982 and 1989 - Drum was appointed coach of Fremantle after the 1998 season following the Dockers' sacking of Gerard Neesham.
"It (coaching an AFL team) is all encompassing and with blokes like myself who work in the industry for 10 years to get there, it's a bit like be careful what you wish for," Drum said 13 years ago.
"I had been coaching for three years at VFL level and then five years at Sydney before getting a gig. Then you end up with a team that is not overly loaded with talent and it's just hard yards from day one."
THE TIME-COSUMING NATURE OF THE JOB:
"You go to bed thinking about it, you wake up thinking about it," Drum said.
"Most coaches have a little studio set up in their home and I did. I would work at the club until 6-6.30pm, go home and spend two or three hours with the kids and by 9pm you would go into your studio and watch another game, or work on a highlights tape, or go over some statistics and quite often you would fall asleep there.
"Often you would be having a conversation with your family, but thinking about what you've got to do with your footy."
Drum found the best way of getting away from the all-encompassing nature of coaching the Dockers was to play a round of golf.
"I had a loose rule that every time we had an eight-day break I would always take a Thursday off to play golf. I had a group of really good mates at the Fremantle Golf Club who would get me away from footy," Drum said.
DEALING WITH THE MEDIA WHEN YOUR TEAM IS STRUGGLING:
The Dockers finished second-last in Drum's first season as coach in 1999 with a 5-17 record.
The following season in 2000 the Dockers improved to 8-14 and finished 12th, before the pressure ramped up on Drum early in 2001.
"One of the biggest challenge the battling coach has is that you can't say one thing to the media and then another to the players because the players are too smart," Drum said.
"The coach is left in a very difficult situation; all these coaches (under pressure) would be crying out to the media to make the statements that their list isn't very good.
"But if the coach himself says it, he is effectively telling his players they are no good. So after all the work through the week, the players are going to think, 'he is telling us we can win, but he has just told the Herald-Sun or The Age on Tuesday we're not good enough'.
"Most coaches now are going down the path of remaining very positive when talking to the press about their list.
"I went through it as bad as anybody because the list that I inherited, that's when the team was at its worst."
It's interesting to note that at the time of this discussion with Drum back in June of 2006, among the coaches who were feeling the media blowtorch were Hawthorn's Alistair Clarkson and Geelong's Mark Thompson, both who would go on to coach their clubs to multiple premierships.
THE EARLY STAGES OF HIS COACHING FUTURE BEING QUESTIONED:
"Looking back, I reckon I nearly got sacked after round six (in 2001) when they had a board meeting," Drum said.
"There wasn't much talk about it beforehand, but it obviously got raised in the board meeting and I had two or three pretty strong people who stood up and said this isn't going to be talked about and not much happened."
Six rounds into the 2001 season the Dockers were 0-6, having lost to Carlton (by 1 point), Collingwood (17), Hawthorn (23), West Coast (24), Brisbane (49) and Melbourne (45).
"The interesting aspect is when it turns nasty how the coach responds, because you have not only the 40 players, but a coaching staff of five or six, recruiters, team managers, all the support staff and volunteers," Drum said.
"I remember a really strong thought in my mind when the heat came on was that everybody in the club was looking at me to see how I handled and reacted to the pressure.
"It would have been very easy to be consumed by your own concerns of what's going on around you, but in order for everyone to operate to their best, you have to put that totally to one side and say it's not going to affect me at all."
WHEN THE COACHING AXE FINALLY FELL:
Fremantle sacked Drum after nine rounds of the 2001 season.
The Dockers were 0-9 and Drum - whose last game was a 19-point loss to Sydney at the SCG - was replaced by caretaker Ben Allan.
"I had been in a meeting for about five hours with the AFL in Perth and we were talking about the next year and went through about 15 issues," Drum said.
"Unbeknownst to me, the board had met that morning to sack me and it had got through.
"David Hatt, who was our CEO, was in the meeting with me and knew I had been sacked, but didn't say anything.
"As we broke for the end of the day, he said to me something along the lines of, 'there's a fair few media outside,' but I didn't think much of it."
Drum's sacking had been leaked to the waiting Perth media and that's how he learned of it.
"I walked straight out and straight into them (the media) and just didn't know what to do," Drum said.
"He (Hatt) ducked out the side door and I was filthy on him for not having the guts to tell me because he could have said, 'don't go out there, come here with me'."
"One of my feelings was of total relief because it had been tough, but there was also a sense of despair," Drum said.
"In my instance I had total support of the coaches, the footy manager, the football director, the president and the players, so while you tend to think it (on-field) is going pretty bad, we are on the right track.
"But there were three or four in the boardroom who didn't think so and maybe it was naivety a bit on my behalf that I didn't see it coming.
"There was also a certain amount of, 'it's someone else's problem now, I'm going to move on and not spend too much time fretting about what is never going to be changed."
Drum coached the Dockers in 53 games for a 13-40 record. He continued coaching with the Bendigo Diggers in the VFL in 2002.
As well as coaching the Diggers for one season before the club's alignment with Essendon to form the Bendigo Bombers, Drum's footballing time in Bendigo also included a stint as the chairman of the Bendigo Football-Netball League board from 2005 to 2010.
Drum is now the Federal member for Nicholls and has an electorate office based in Shepparton.
As for the Dockers, they won two of their 13 games under Allan over the remainder of 2001 before Chris Connolly was appointed their new coach in 2002.
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