Hamish McLachlan interviews Luke Beveridge Part 4
HM: Was the ďguided democracyĒ needed?
LB: No, not at all. We just had a cold vote, and he was unanimously selected for the role.
HM: Heís on the record as saying ďLuke Beveridge is the coach I always hoped Iíd haveĒ. I sense he is the captain you always hoped youíd have?
LB: Yeah, absolutely. I think heís got a great balance. Heís actually a very spiritual person, and heís always thinking outside the box. Thereís some hardcore stuff there as well that he leverages off; he loves a bit of Springsteen. Ultimately, heís a great player. The two main roles of a leader are to lead by example, and lead with their voice. He does both extremely well.
HM: The footy gods can be cruel. Have you ever felt lower in football than you did when Bob went down with his knee?
LB: From a coaching perspective, that was certainly one of the lowest moments. I donít like to dwell on those types of things. Iíve always been a very glass-half-full type of person. When he did that injury, it was shock at first, but I just found myself visualising the next time he would play.
HM: At the start of last year, you gave all your players a copy of a book ó it which was slightly unorthodox. Salty Dogs?
LB: Yeah, I did ó how did you know that? Itís an internal publication. I saw it through Graham Lowe, and the message in the book is around confronting your fears. Itís similar to the book Where The Wild Things Are.
HM: Itís one of my kidsí favourites.
LB: If you read that book, youíll discover itís just got a really punchy storyline, and itís similar to that. Itís a picture book, with a really revealing storyline. Itís a nautical theme, itís got dogs in it. The intrigue of the ocean, and the uncertainty and the unknown was relevant to our situation. We just made it our own, and itís become pretty powerful within the organisation.
HM: Youíve spoken a lot about getting out of your comfort zone, and confronting your fears. On the last page it says ďrun towards the fireĒ. For me, that sums up your approach.
LB: Yeah, itís been a journey to get there though. Thereís an inferno, and I think when we reached the grand final we were in the inferno, but to get there, it was a significant achievement. Once we got there, nothing else mattered, we just had to win it. It wouldnít have happened if everyone hadnít confronted the challenges ahead, which was essentially the fire. Every one of our players, to different degrees, has embraced the challenge, and confronted their fears.
HM: The whole 2016 finals series for a fan was almost an out-of-body experience. You go to West Coast, then beat the reigning premiers, then to the Giants on their home deck in one of the most epic prelims of all time. As a coach, do you have a chance to actually sit back and see what is unfolding, or are you just so invested into each week that it falls by the wayside?
LB: As a coach, you are pretty far removed from the external stuff. You get a sense of it, but even now, that euphoria that was going on in the streets and in the homes of Bulldogs fans still isnít fully appreciated. The significance of it is shown through the range of investment and commitment emotionally and financially from a lot of them. As far as the journey through the last month is concerned, all you are clinging to is the prospect of what might happen. As I said earlier, you canít look beyond the next week. Now we can sit back and reflect on a pretty remarkable month.
HM: There is a movie, Bridge of Spies. Tom Hanks plays a lawyer, trying to free a Soviet spy played by Mark Rylance. Unless a deal can be reached to exchange him for another spy, heís going to be executed. Tom Hanks continues to say to the Soviet spy ďYou donít seem worriedĒ as the situation continues to be grim, to which the Mark Rylance continuously replies ďWould it help?Ē. Your mindset seems similar: only worry about what you can control.
LB: Thereís two things for me. Thereís pressure that is always there, varying degrees on all of us, but ultimately the individual chooses how much they let creep in. Itís really important to compartmentalise pressure, and take it out of the equation. The only pressure that matters is the pressure in the game. The other aspect is that youíve got to picture the worst-case scenario, and what that will look like. As much as you want the fairy tale, youíve got to be prepared to confront the alternative. I think as long as you keep thinking like that, then youíll be able to stay measured with your decision making.
HM: The preliminary final was an insta classic. What are you feeling in the last two minutes of a prelim final like that?
LB: Because it had been such a long time since the club had been in a grand final, I was extremely emotional. A lot of people had driven to Sydney to see that game, and theyíd driven there with a huge sense of optimism that they were going to see a winning preliminary final. It had been 55 years since weíd been in the grand final, and I certainly felt the significance of that afterwards. It was a gorilla-shrugging exercise, and we got it off our back. There was a bit of relief in that I have to say.
HM: It was something else. Grand final week. Can you actually enjoy it?
LB: Yeah, definitely. I loved the week. I couldnít believe the Friday and the Grand Final Parade. It was just so overwhelming to see so many people out there. Because Sydneyís colours are two of our three, you just looked out at the crowd and imagined there were 200,000 Bulldogs fans there. I likened it to how The Beatles must have felt when they came to Melbourne. I felt like a rock star in the ute, driving towards the MCG. It was such a foreign feeling, and in a sense I didnít feel like myself.
HM: Almost an out-of-body experience.
LB: Almost, yeah.
HM: How did you sleep that week?
LB: I actually slept pretty well. You end up having a fair amount of faith in what you do, and that relaxes me.
HM: I assume you can overthink a grand final?
LB: Yeah, you can overthink every game, but thatís the one game you want to make sure you donít.
HM: What is going through your mind when youíre driving to the ground?
LB: I must admit, you do think about scenarios, and in a sense, that is overthinking. Thereís no doubt you find yourself drifting off to foreseeing what the end of the day might look like if you win, which youíve got to pull yourself back from pretty quickly, because thatís the last place you want your players to be when theyíre playing.
HM: What about the moment where you know you canít be beaten?
LB: Itís hard to describe, really. Iíve played at the club for three years, Iíve coached for two, and even though thereís a significant amount of responsibility in the senior coaching role, I found it difficult to feel anything else other than numb. I didnít really know how to feel.
HM: Amongst it all, whether it be a few minutes before the final siren to now, is there a moment that you reflect on more than any other?
LB: In the game, when JJís goal was disallowed, everyone began to make their own predictions. Everyone was Nostradamus at that point, saying to themselves that that was our fate. There was so much uncertainty at that point, and disregarding what everyone may say about the umpiring, that is a significant momentum shift at a crucial point in the game. If that goal is allowed, Sydney have to score three goals to level it up, but as a result they only had to score two. When Roughy took that mark from the resulting kick-in, the momentum immediately changed again ó in our favour. Sydney would have been buoyed by that disallowed goal, and to have Roughy take that mark, and put it straight back in our forward line, was a monumental moment.
HM: Leigh Matthews says: ďI donít care what you give me success wise, Iíll always be hungry for me óyou will never fill the hole I haveĒ. Is there any part of your ambitious hole thatís been fulfilled? I know you want more.
LB: I always think about success and what it looks like, and in our game itís holding up the cup. I see success every day, I try and value it, and it doesnít have to be the ultimate glory. Thereís nothing for me, in footy, that I want for. I want to continue to do the best I can, and we can, for those who are invested.
HM: Footy seems to be circular. You win the Jock McHale medal ó a man who coached your grandfather to four flags ó and then you give it away immediately. When did you decide youíd do that?
LB: Right there and then, really. I had to get him up on stage; it would have been a travesty if I hadnít. He deserved recognition for helping pave the way through the previous year, and what he did when I started. What he was able to do as captain of the club after he did his knee was critical to our journey. The medal is a trinket, it probably symbolises something now, but the medal doesnít mean anything to me, really; itís just a sense of achievement that everyone should get from it.
HM: Itís one of the most significant moments Iíve seen in sport. Your mum was slightly concerned.
LB: I heard that. Thatís her over-the-top pride in her young íun. She didnít understand the other side of it.
HM: Iím interested in watches. How did you end up with yours?
LB: How did you know about that? Wow. Gee Ö ummm Ö Lindsay Fox invited Jobe Watson and I to his office on St Kilda Rd, Linfox. He felt moved that Iíd given the medal to Bob and he described the selflessness in that particular act. With Jobe, it was a bit of a different situation, which both Lindsay and I felt was forced upon him, with him handing his Brownlow Medal over. Lindsay, in his great generosity, gave me this watch, and he engraved on the back ďActions speak louder than wordsĒ. Itís a great gesture, and I really value it greatly.
HM: What a significant gesture. Do you realise how much joy you have given to so many people by winning the premiership?
LB: Yeah, I do, I do, because it had been so long! I got a hate letter from someone early in the year after North Melbourne beat us. It was the only hate letter Iíve ever received, and it really ate away at me. I could imagine how coaches have felt at times when things werenít going to plan, and had a lot of negative stuff at their clubs. I tore it in half, only to find it the other day, sitting in my drawer. The coward who wrote it didnít put their name and number on it. I wish I could ring them. Iíd like you to read it.
HM: What did it say?
LB: Just how it was all a waste of time, and that basically I couldnít coach. The polar opposite of that was the outpouring of emotion of impartial people that love the story, and we all sense that. We know how significant it was.
HM: Four quarters of footy ago you werenít a premiership coach. Things can change quickly in life.
LB: They can. They do. They can go the other way too!
HM: Whitten, Sutton and Beveridge. The three biggest names in Bulldogs history?
LB: (laughs) I think thereís a few hall-of-famers up on our wall who are well before me! Charlie is revered, as is Sutton.
HM: As is Luke Beveridge. Congratulations.
LB: Thank you ó thanks a lot.
HM: You cut your own hair?
LB: Weíve moved past this point, havenít we?
HM: But your hair is very long, do you make an appointment with yourself?
LB: (laughs) If thereís a bit hanging out a bit far, Iíll snip it off.
HM: If you were to recommend a book, what would it be?
LB: The Count of Monte Cristo.
LB: I just love the story. I love the enigma that he is. I think itís important that everyone understands some of the war stuff, and I think itís important to understand what some of the diggers did. Peter FitzSimonsí book Kokoda is a good one; A Bastard of a Place is good also.
HM: You saw Bruce Springsteen a few weeks ago. What are the two Boss songs you must have on your iPod?
LB: Brilliant Disguise and Born To Run.
HM: How quickly does a premiership-winning coach find himself focusing on the next season?
LB: A couple of weeks afterwards, because then youíre looking at trading and the draft, and youíre automatically planning. It moves on quickly.
HM: Have you ever been hugged by as many strangers on the street as you have since the grand final?
LB: No. Never. Itís great.
HM: Where do you find your supply of endless pre-game jokes?
LB: (laughs) Iíve run out, mate!
''Dogs are Talking''- The Angels