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Appointing next North Melbourne coach one of the most 'thankless' tasks in football

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There's not much doubt whoever takes over the North Melbourne coaching job will have one of the most thankless tasks in football. Perhaps THE most thankless right now, however, might be the job of appointing that person.

The Roos have been seen to get it wrong now twice in a row with their punts on first Rhyce Shaw then David Noble. And with each misstep has come a seemingly inevitable increase of speculation about an entire club's future. Can the Roos afford to get it wrong again?

But really, how does a club ever truly know if it got it right until long after the decision has been made? And even then maybe not.

Turn the clock back to the end of 2006 and ask Geelong's powerbrokers then if they felt they'd made the right decision hiring Mark Thompson as coach seven years previously. Ask people at Richmond about Damien Hardwick come the end of a disastrous 2016 after he'd been there seven seasons.

In both cases, you would have received dramatically different responses to just a few years later, when that pair had racked up five premierships between them.

Then there's the endless debates about what type of coach clubs should appoint, AFL football now littered with a wide array of different coaching backgrounds, even the once taboo profile of the recycled coach back in favour via the likes of Brett Ratten and Michael Voss at St Kilda and Carlton respectively.

The "favourite son" always holds sentimental appeal, and North Melbourne has two obvious potential targets in that category in former players Alastair Clarkson and Adam Simpson.

There's the "big name, big personality" style typified in the likes of Ross Lyon and former Port Adelaide premiership coach Mark Williams, who former Essendon assistant Robert Shaw threw his support behind on this week's Footyology podcast.

There's the ever-popular "experienced assistant" category filled by the likes of Adam Kingsley, Daniel Giansiracusa and Robery Harvey. Fashion being what it is in AFL football, that might be looking a good bet at the moment given the immediate impact of former Richmond assistant Craig McRae at Collingwood so far.

Then there's the "broad football department experience" type from which Noble hailed, having spent more than a decade as a list manager then heading football departments at both Adelaide and Brisbane.

That wider net of AFL club experiences produced appointments like Luke Beveridge at the Western Bulldogs, the late Phil Walsh to Adelaide and Chris Fagan to the Lions. But Noble hadn't actually coached his own side since Glenelg in the SANFL in 2003-04. You could write your own ticket on the Roos taking a similar punt now.

There are compelling arguments which can be mounted for and against virtually any candidate from any of those categories.

Clarkson or Simpson hold obvious appeal purely on their coaching records. You'd think if it came down to either versus another candidate, the Arden Street connection would probably tip the scales. But should it?

North Melbourne is an entirely different club now, even culturally, to when even Simpson last played there in 2009, let alone during Clarkson's time in the 1980s. What relevance does the playing history of either have to their capacity to take the Roos forward on the field now?

Lyon's previous success with St Kilda and Fremantle has plenty of pundits pushing his claims as a potential North Melbourne saviour. There are important "buts" in his case also, though.

One is that both the Saints and Dockers had good lists with requisite maturity when he took them over, both needing more "whipping into shape" than development and nurturing as such, which is what North Melbourne will continue to need for some time yet.

And the experiences of both sides once they'd passed their best opportunities weren't that they had in Lyon a coach prepared to patiently nurture the next generations of talent.

Does Lyon's uncompromising and occasionally abrasive visage also present a potential problem?

It's easy to talk tough, but as Noble discovered to his cost following his now infamous "spray" of his players after their Round 3 thrashing at the hands of Brisbane, today's playing generations seek encouragement, not chastisement, and if you "lose" them, it's pretty hard to win them back.

The pool of AFL assistant coaches offers for North Melbourne the widest range of candidates. But even the most rigorous weighing up of one prospective coach's credentials against another's won't deliver a definitive answer, and for the obvious reasons. That driving the bus is a whole different ball game to being the conductor.

Whomever North Melbourne ends up with, we'll be sold upon their appointment the usual lines about rigorous processes, stand-out candidates and impeccable credentials.

But, as usual, until judgement is delivered via cups or no cups in the trophy cabinet, it will remain, whether it's Clarkson or Joe Bloggs, a calculated but still massive gamble. And it always was thus.

You can read more of Rohan Connolly's work at FOOTYOLOGY.