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Rhyce Shaw’s future at North Melbourne in doubt as club confirms coach’s leave of absence

North Melbourne’s Rhyce Shaw has taken an extended break from coaching for personal reasons, with doubts over whether he’ll return to the role.
North Melbourne’s Rhyce Shaw has taken an extended break from coaching for personal reasons, with doubts over whether he’ll return to the role.

Kangaroos chairman Ben Buckley wrote to members on Friday, confirming senior coach Shaw had taken personal leave following the club’s tough 2020 campaign, which saw it finish 17th on the ladder with a 3-14 record while being primarily based in a Queensland hub.

Following the club’s most recent game against West Coast, 11 players have been delisted, while Ben Brown and Shaun Higgins are also set to depart.

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The decision means Shaw, who replaced Brad Scott as the club’s interim coach for half of 2019 before being appointed to the gig full-time ahead of the 2020 season, is unlikely to be part of any further North list management calls during the upcoming AFL exchange period.

Buckley said the Kangaroos had delayed confirming or announcing anything regarding Shaw due to the wishes of him and his family.

The 2020 season was Rhyce Shaw’s first as the club’s full-time senior coach. Picture: Michael Klein
The 2020 season was Rhyce Shaw’s first as the club’s full-time senior coach. Picture: Michael KleinSource: News Corp Australia

“We have been acutely aware of speculation regarding our head coach, but we have not been in a position to say anything as we are respecting the wishes of Rhyce and his family,” Buckley wrote.

“Rhyce has asked for some time and space away from football and we have provided him support during this period.

“We thank the media for their ongoing cooperation 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.”

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Collingwood legend Tony Shaw told 3AW Football on Friday night that he’d spoken with his brother Ray about Rhyce’s situation.

“If I knew (more) I’d tell you, but I did speak to Ray on the way here – I did try to ring Rhyce too – and Ray said he’s seen his son. He said physically he’s getting himself together,” Shaw told 3AW Football.

“If I knew anything about it and it was going to be to the detriment of the health of Rhyce, I’d lie to you – I wouldn’t be telling the truth here now – but I don’t.

“I think the hub really got to him (Rhyce) a little bit – and I think it got to everybody who wasn’t really playing finals because you were still around football. He went away for a week up to North Queensland – I was told it was a health resort or something like that – and then came back to Melbourne and he’s been in Melbourne for three weeks now and is just going about it how it is.”

Shaw has one year left on his contract at North Melbourne. But his indefinite leave means North might be looking at contingency plans should it be deemed Shaw won’t coach next season.

Asked if he knew whether Rhyce would coach North in 2021, former Pies coach Tony Shaw said: “I’ll be honest, my brother said to me – and if he’d like me to help his son, I’ve got no worries with that too – but he just said to me he hasn’t questioned him, he wants to leave him to his own devices. He’ll support him and we’ll all support him, but he hasn’t questioned him.”

North Melbourne coach Rhyce Shaw. Picture: Michael Klein
North Melbourne coach Rhyce Shaw. Picture: Michael KleinSource: News Corp Australia

North Melbourne was keen to appoint a senior figure in a part-time role to assist Shaw, with Paul Roos one of roughly 10 people being considered.

The role would encompass several areas of the football department.

Despite the delicate situation, Tony Shaw said it was important the Roos made a prompt call on who coaches the club next season.

“In one way, I think sooner or later you’ve got to come out and together make decision – but not to the detriment of his health,” Tony said.

“If that’s what it is and they haven’t made that decision, I commend the North Melbourne footy club. (If) there’s other things behind the scenes and we find out later about it, we mightn’t commend them. But I just have to read it how (the statement reads) and that’s what it is.”

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Essendon legend Matthew Lloyd added on 3AW: “It’s got to be, first and foremost, what’s right for Rhyce. But there’d be a lot of players at North Melbourne who are wondering about the direction of the club and who’s going to be the coach. If you’re uncontracted, you’d be saying ‘OK, is Rhyce our coach or is it Paul Roos?’

“I reckon that’s got to be a point that comes where they need to say who the coach is moving forward … otherwise there could be players that want to leave because they’re so uncertain about the football club.”

The Roos are undergoing a significant football department restructure after they confirmed six coaches won’t be at the club in 2021.

It was announced earlier this month that Jade Rawlings, Jarred Moore, Heath Scotland, Jason Lappin, Will Minson and Michael Firrito would depart.

“In no way can we afford to brush over what was a year below our standards and while we know our team was restricted by injury which compromised our ability to field our best side, our performances were not at the level we expect,” Buckley said.

“As a result, and like we do at the end of every year, we are looking at our football department structure, list-management, coaching panel, high-performance, and medical areas and programs in an effort to improve across the board.

Rhyce Shaw’s Roos finished 17th on the ladder. Picture: Michael Willson
Rhyce Shaw’s Roos finished 17th on the ladder. Picture: Michael WillsonSource: Getty Images

“There has been change, and there will be more, but we are not going to apologise for trying to make this club better.

“To those we’ve recently bid farewell to, I’d like to personally thank you for your hard work, and wish you well for the future.”

Despite Shaw’s likely absence from the trade period, Buckley said he had “every confidence” the Roos will “add more talent that will lead us back up the ladder in coming years”.

“As I’ve said many times before, the group leading our football department will build something special, but they need time to do it; we can’t be too quick to judge such a major transformation,” Buckley wrote.

The Kangaroos have already filled one of the coaching vacancies, poaching John Blakey — a North great and Roos’ close friend and former colleague — from the Swans month to work as an assistant coach.

“I’m delighted John Blakey will be returning to his spiritual home for next season and beyond as senior assistant coach,” Buckley wrote.

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“He is a person of great character, has wonderful experience having coached at the Brisbane Lions during their successful era, and more recently was part of the foundation of the culture that led to the success of the Sydney Swans.

“We will continue to add more resources and expertise to our coaching panel.”

Despite not playing any games in Tasmania in 2020, Buckley announced that club would post a “small surplus” this year. It means North will record a profit for the ninth consecutive year and the 13th surplus in the past 14 years.

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