Collingwood's just-departed veteran recruiter Matthew Rendell has explained the mistake that led the Magpies to err by overlooking Carlton superstar Patrick Cripps, and how the club's review of that decision led to a shift in their thinking.
Rendell, the former Fitzroy captain and senior St Kilda assistant coach, who became Adelaide recruiting manager and then a senior recruiter at Collingwood, said the Magpies' recruiting department had drafted Brayden Maynard 12 months later partly because of lessons learned from bypassing Cripps with two selections in the top 10 of the 2013 national draft.
Patrick Cripps. Credit:AAP
Rendell, whose position at Collingwood was made redundant following round one, having previously being relegated to part-time this year, said the Magpies had misjudged Cripps by paying too much attention to his poor aerobic running. They drafted Matthew Scharenberg at pick six and then Nathan Freeman at No.10, who had significant injuries that hampered their careers, as Cripps was selected by the Blues at pick No.13.
"The lesson learned out of the whole thing was Cripps at 13," Rendell said. "Great kid, great interview, great clearance … but basically didn't run outside the square.
"Then he goes for testing at the combine and runs an 11 beep. Jesus, I could run an 11 beep. So I've gone, 'This bloke is going to be a midfielder on an 11 beep?' Ain't going to happen."
Rendell said, under recruiting boss Derek Hine, Collingwood routinely reviews every player drafted in the AFL over five years. He said by Cripps' second year, they recognised "we've stuffed that up" by not picking the champion.
Matthew Rendell pictured speaking to Saints players as assistant coach in 2005. Credit:Getty Images
"I said, 'Righto, what have we learned out of it? Don't put everything into the running ability of an 18-year-old who's still growing.'
"The result of that, on the Cripps [decision] … [was] Maynard, who also wasn't a great runner, [but] we've gone, 'Stuff it, we made the blue on Cripps because we didn't think he could run. We're not making the blue on Maynard.'"
Privately, Collingwood insiders say that the mistake was to misjudge Cripps' capacity to redress his running weakness through his strength of character.
In a frank interview that followed his exit from Collingwood after a 40-plus year football journey spanning six clubs (he played his last year with Brisbane and coached Melbourne reserves in 1997), Rendell also revealed:
- He had been "trying to help" get Indigenous footballers through the system when he commented to AFL community manager Jason Mifsud in a meeting in 2012 that an Indigenous player almost needed one white parent to be drafted. The comments led to Rendell's sacking as recruiting manager by the Crows. "I clearly used the wrong words. I knew Jason very well and he knew exactly what I was talking about. Other issues came in to play," he said. Rendell said there was "no doubt" he was effectively sacked by the AFL, whose chief executive Andrew Demetriou intervened. "Unfortunately, well, Andrew scheduled the hit without getting the facts. Shot from the hip. No one spoke to me from the AFL [before his sacking], no one wanted to hear what I had to say."
- Collingwood had been "all over the place" and a tough working environment, with the recruiting department under unwarranted pressure before the club review led by football chief Geoff Walsh and businessman Peter Murphy in 2017. "It was damn hard work to be honest. There was a lot of angst at that club until they did that review. They were a bit all over the place," he said. "Bucks [Nathan Buckley] was still trying to find out how to coach, what to do when he was coaching … he was still trying to find his way. Probably no different to 'Dimma' [Damien Hardwick] at Richmond. It took Dimma eight years before he turned them into a powerhouse. It took Bucks quite a while too. A lot of people weren't happy with the recruiting department. But we're still trying to work out why."
- Clubs and coaches should "stop being selfish" and encourage a more entertaining and attacking style of game, or risk losing millennials. "Stop being so bloody selfish, everyone in the business, and playing for their survival, and start worrying about the people who care [the members]," Rendell said. "We had the lowest scoring year since 1966 last year. That is a fair dinkum joke with the talent they've got on display. The millennials don't want to go and watch it and when us baby boomers all pass away, the game is going to be in real trouble unless they do something about it."
- St Kilda would have won at least two flags had they not sacked Rendell's close friend Grant Thomas as coach in 2006. "If he had've kept coaching, St Kilda would have won two or three flags. We only had to fix one area [conditioning] … we had Geelong's measure and they won three," he observed.
- Collingwood of 2020 had a top four list, with Scott Pendlebury, 32, and Steele Sidebottom, 29, capable of playing another five years. "He [Pendlebury] can play till 36," Rendell said.
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