It’s the most contentious betting market offered in Australian sport: which AFL coach will be the first to have his delicate neck placed on the chopping block in season 2007?
Such critics as the AFL Coaches Association have expressed disappointment at the bookies’ bloodlust in offering such a “demeaning” option. But Sportingbet says: don’t be so sensitive, we’re just giving dinky-di Aussie punters what they want — even if those Schadenfreude-sozzled punters might appear like some of the women sitting and knitting alongside the guillotines during the French Revolution.
Until the past three weeks, Kangaroos coach Dean Laidley has been the overwhelming favourite as Coach Most Likely. Not content with offering odds on his demise, Sportingbet then far exceeded its charter by issuing a press release that sledged not just Laidley but the Roos’ traditionally low supporter base.
The statement said: “We all know that he (Laidley) has to be favourite; it’s just a matter of how short he is. The Kangas are every chance of being 0-10 by June. It’s hard to see the Roos faithful (all 30 of them) not calling for his head by then. We hope that Dean has enjoyed his tenure at Arden Street; we can’t see him being there next year.”
Well to the smartypants at Sportingbet, and especially those who took the offer of $2.25 on Laidley’s axing, bad luck. Looks like you backed a loser. With their third win in a row, the Roos are now sitting just outside the eight and looking forward to the rest of the season with some confidence. It was even reported — though not confirmed — that Laidley was caught smiling after the win over Sydney on Saturday night.
Asked about the market in sacked coaches, Laidley said in an interview published on the morning before the Swans’ game: “It’s madness, the Aussie culture, isn’t it?”
Sportingbet had listed Geelong’s Mark Thompson as second-favourite behind Laidley at $7, but the Cats’ 157-point humiliation of Richmond last night has put paid to his chances of an early exit, for a few weeks anyway.
So the question now for those ghouls at Sportingbet is who to spotlight next? The coach who will shorten dramatically in the betting is the man on the wrong end of Geelong’s belting at Telstra Dome yesterday, Richmond’s “Teflon” Terry Wallace.
Through all the debate about the future of Laidley, Thompson and others, Wallace has scarcely rated a mention. He is seen as being in charge of a massive rebuilding project at Punt Rd that has almost made him immune from serious scrutiny. Yet, he is in the third year of a five-year plan and Richmond supporters will be asking themselves the question today whether the club is in any better shape now than when he took over amid much fanfare in late 2004. Many will say it is not.
On the eve of the new season, Wallace gave an interview in which he said Richmond would start to play consistently good footy in 2009 and its “decade of opportunity” would kick in from 2011. The attempt at spin didn’t wash. Fans asked: so we’re supposed to wait another four years before we start seeing the results of Wallace’s seven years in charge? You must be joking!
The yellow-and-black brigade are not known for their calm and reasoned behaviour. In fact, coaches’ heads have rolled at Punt Rd at only a marginally less frequent rate than those in Paris.
The chopping block might soon be wheeled into place at Tigerland and the blade sharpened. Sportingbet, ghoulish punters and aggrieved Tigers are eyeing developments keenly. This is the most difficult time in Wallace’s coaching career. He needs results and he needs them fast. Not wins necessarily, just some clear evidence the club is heading in the right direction. If not, no amount of spin and smooth-talking will save his skin.