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Teague's emotional homecoming

The Journey | S2E7 Season 2 | Episode 7. In the final episode of Season 2 of The Journey, go behind-the-scenes as Carlton wrap up the 2017 season.

IT'S a measure of the high regard in which he is held that more than 30 congratulatory messages, most of them texted by current Carlton players, found their way to David Teague’s mobile after news broke he was returning to the Club as an assistant to Brendon Bolton. 

Some seven years have lapsed since the then Northern Bullants coach resolved to pursue his career in coaching elsewhere, and yet the legacy somehow remains - for Teague was a much-loved figure here.

“I had to get away for a while, but I’m really looking forward to coming back,” said Teague, a 50-game backman, best clubman and most courageous through the dark years of the New Millennium - and the inaugural John Nicholls Medallist in 2004. 

“I’ve learned a heap along the way and you’re always learning on the go, but to be honest my time coaching the Bullants after the opportunity arose was where I learned the most in terms of the hands-on nature of coaching. You could be your own man, you could make lots of mistakes and I made lots of them.” 


But he learned from them too, and in his subsequent years with St Kilda, West Coast and Adelaide built on his football knowledge by working with the best – from Alan Richardson through to John Worsfold, to the late Phil Walsh and to Don Pyke.

“Alan Richardson was super impressive in the way that he worked the leadership group and won them over; John Worsfold was phenomenal in way he set up systems and structures and ran a footy club, Phil Walsh was as good a tactician as I’ve ever been involved with; and Don Pyke, who came in at an unusual time, but kept the messages clear and simple and engaged in relationships with the players,” Teague said.

“And it wasn’t just the senior coaches either – I learnt a lot from the assistants along the way as well.” 

With the events of last Saturday’s Grand Final still raw, Teague, as Adelaide’s outgoing forwards coach, conceded it was difficult not to ponder what might have been in this contest with an opposition whose game was built on sheer belief. 

“It’s hard not to think about different aspects of that game, particularly when we (Adelaide) worked so hard, came so close and found ourselves in that position. To play the way we did is hard to swallow, although I am extremely proud with all the boys at Adelaide, particularly the ones I coached,” Teague conceded.

“But I’m probably lucky in that I do have this as a distraction, with the phone going silly and all the Carlton boys texting me. It’s quite nice and you get that warm fuzzy feeling.”

Teague, pictured here with club great Anthony Koutoufides, played 50 games for Carlton. (Photo: AFL Media)

Teague expects to contribute his energies to the fortunes of Carlton’s forward line, and work in closely with fellow assistant and development coaches including John Barker, Cameron Bruce, Dale Amos, Tim Clarke, Shane Watson, Josh Fraser and Saverio Rocca.

In short he wants to help the Carlton Football Club and help the coaches with whom he will work – and it’s very much strength in numbers for the boy from Katandra. 

“I’ve definitely got some thoughts and I’m pretty strong in my opinions about how the game should be played,” Teague said.

“But I am coming back as part of a coaching team and looking to play my role, and if I can influence the team and help it grow and develop then that’s what it’s all about."

For Teague, the timing of his return to Melbourne and to Carlton seemed right, as the past three years have not been easy for him personally – and as he confided to Head of Football Andrew McKay, he needed to be back with his own ones.

“I was never going to leave Adelaide to go anywhere else. I was always coming back to Melbourne,” Teague said.

“I’ve got three young kids and another one in between who passed away (and) these past three years have been pretty tough for myself with Phil (Walsh) and my own son - so to have family support is really important for me.” 

“One thing about being involved with footy clubs, is that when adversity comes people reach out and you do see how much love there is. Most of the news you see, hear or read these days is generally negative, but when something bad happened to me the thing that stood out was how many good people there are out there . . . and football clubs are part of that.”

Forever grateful for the support afforded him by Adelaide as he dealt with his own profound personal loss, Teague also remembered “that when I got back to work, Phil was the one who challenged me, saying ‘Come on, get off your butt, get going again’”. 

Teague also took the liberty of thanking the Adelaide players, particularly the forwards with whom he had worked so closely. 

“I had great relationships with the players who have been phenomenal in terms of what they’ve been through and their capacity to have stuck together,” Teague said.

“That’s why it’s pretty hard to be leaving, and I’ll be honest, when I went around the room this morning to say goodbye to the guys I nearly cried when I spoke to them because what they did to help me was massive.”

Teague says he had strong bonds with Adelaide's players. (Photo: AFL Media)

Teague has already held preliminary meetings with both McKay and Bolton, and is already the better for them.

“I was super impressed with both Andrew and Brendon,” he said. “They were both very much vison-focused and they both talked about the big picture which resonated with me.

“There’s no doubt I’m coming back to a changed place, with the amount of work that’s gone into improving the culture and fabric of Carlton. The environment that’s been created for the players to develop and the engagement with the fans to get them bound by Blue means it’s a really exciting time in the football club’s history.”