20 July 2011, Melbourne Cricket Ground, Jolimont, Melbourne, Australia
In the pre-season of 1981, the President Ron Cook, John Kennedy Snr & the committee made the decision to appoint Allan Jeans as the senior coach of the Hawthorn Football Club. .
No-one could have imagined the profound affect that decision was to have on the club and in particular those that worked within it.
Our perception and that of the football public was built on a media profile that had preceded Yab’s appointment at Hawthorn. A man who was very conservative, dour in his demeanor and one who gave the impression he loved sucking lemons for fun!
It wasn’t until you got to really know this man that the real Yabby Jeans was discovered.
Our first meeting as a playing group was in the Hawthorn Social Club. It wasn’t a long extended meeting on what lay ahead over the summer or any issue surrounding our poor performance of the previous season, but rather a short, to the point, quietly spoken message, that we as players did not have to like Allan Jeans but (with a crescendo in his voice) – “You must respect the position I hold at this football club! I will need to earn your respect & you mine, but I demand you respect this position I hold as coach!”
It set the tone for what was to be the most successful era the Hawthorn Football Club had experienced.
Yab’s wisdom and knowledge was profound. He extended this talent to his players on many occasions, usually accompanied by a real life analogy.
He would stress continually that in football and life you cannot have freedom without responsibility. That the freedom to say and do things must be accompanied with a responsibility in what you say and do. “You cannot have one without the other!” he would roar
When we found ourselves languishing out of form ,or having to make a decision on our football or even a personal matter , he would often quote the little boy who comes to a crossroad and doesn’t know where to go as the sign post had fallen over . A man nearby sees the confused boy and asks him what’s the problem. The boy replies, “I have come to the crossroad and the sign is broken. What will I do?” The old man says, “that’s easy son, pick up the sign post, point the sign to where you have come from and then you will know where you are going.”
If you see a man at the top of the mountain you have to remember he wasn’t bloody put there. He had to work to get there!!
Of course his famous 1989 half time address of the mother who needed to pay the price for her son’s new shoes if she wanted them to last. She had to pay the price!
Then there was his renowned sense of humour.
This was no more evident than his explanation to us at a meeting one night as to the appointment of his great friend George Stone as runner.
“Well it’s like this – Napoleon during his times of war needed a messenger to get information to the troops. He decided to select the dumbest individual in his army because he believed if he could get the message through to him then it was more likely the message would get to the troops correctly. I have chosen George as our runner.”
In discussions with my father he recalls coming back from Geelong one day with Yab after being beaten by Tommy Hafey’s Cats. A long trip back with plenty of time to think. Yab walked in the front door of his house to Mary lightheartedly calling out from another room – “How did you go Allan – Tommy put it over you did he?” “Now Mary, I’m going back out that door and come back in and we are not going to talk football!!”
Prior to a game at Waverley Park in the mid-eighties he was wandering through the rooms with football manager Johnny Hook as we were all being rubbed down by the trainers. These trainers, the likes of Bob Yeoman, Max Deacon, Peter the Pear (to name a few) were all large men dressed in white pants half way down their backside , white singlets smudged with liniment and all bearing ample stomachs. They also doubled up as water boys. With the ever increasing speed at which the modern game was being played it became apparent to Yab that things would need to change. “Hooky, have a look at these water boys, they will need to be camels to do this job.”
We were playing Richmond at the MCG. The Tigers were causing us all sorts of trouble as the siren went for quarter time. As we huddled around Yab for his quarter time address, he swung into action roaring at us, in an attempt to snap us out of our lull. He suddenly turned his attention to Russell Morris, nicknamed FLY. And said “Fly – you are playing on a guy that has taken 15 marks in his entire career and half of those he has just taken on you in that quarter – LIFT-SON!!!’
There are so many stories .We all have one.
Yab loved his players. His scallywags he would call us.
In public he would defend us to the hilt, even after our worst performances he would never criticize us individually. Under enormous scrutiny from the press he would only say how well the opposition played and that they won in most positions and made the least number of mistakes. We as players appreciated and respected him for his stance on this, however, behind closed doors it was often a different story!
He would let us know in no uncertain terms with his booming voice what he thought of our performance. His piercing blue eyes would scan the room and phases such as “Blokes on ego trips and lairizing” “You know who you are” … “If the cap fits, wear it”… and “Don’t worry about me, I go out there and defend ya to the press, I’ll make something up for you! You just make sure you have fun tonight!!! Don’t let that performance get in the way of ya dancing- oh no we can’t have that. Hope ya beer tastes sour… Off you go!!!”
As a coach he once again displayed two faces. One publicly that presented a very old fashioned way of doing things but in private he was an innovator. He pioneered what’s now called ‘the running game’. He broke the game down for us in simple terms. “We have it, they have it or it’s in dispute.” We were drilled in what to do in all three areas. Our training was geared towards achieving the best results in all three areas. He did not adhere to the theory of long training sessions. He was a great believer in keeping us at the club for as little time as was necessary to ensure we didn’t become too bored in our surroundings.
As players we enjoyed the success that blended through the years.
He had an extraordinary ability to manage people, in particular his players.
In fact it was his greatest asset. Always fairly and thoughtfully.
I remember entering the club room doors and running into a player who Yab had just told that his services were no longer required. He went on to tell me that he was very disappointed but understood that Yabby had to make the hard decisions and that – wait for it - he felt sorry for Yab!!! I marveled as to how he was able to have this individual think this way
I stand here today to represent all the many people who have had an association with Yabby during his time at Hawthorn. In particular the players and match committee who were lucky enough to share in an amazing period of success.
This success in football terms is well documented.
What perhaps is less tangible, but in many ways the greatest legacy Yabby leaves us, is the undoubted impact he has had on our day to day lives.
The lessons he taught us to be successful on and off the field have been used by each and every one of us at various times since we left behind those halcyon days at Hawthorn.
The benefits of persistence, a sense of responsibility, commitment to family, how to win with humility, how to lose with dignity, without excuses. How to manage people and how to lead, to name just a few.
Yab always used to say that myths and images are built up about people, that some people and some things are not always what they seem.
There was no myth about Yab
Certainly an image had been created of him publicly but for those of us that were lucky enough to have known him well, he was the real deal.
A man of great character, integrity and honesty.
A man who did things the way he wanted.
He was not influenced by stereotypes that were often portrayed in the media.
He did not fall into that trap, but dealt with us all…players, club and media…in his own way.
I suspect that as time passes and AFL football and the Hawthorn Football Club continues to evolve, my generation will be talking of this man in similar tones to how my father’s generation talk of the great Norm Smith – in revered terms – arguably this is already occurring.
It’s difficult to put into words the varying degrees of influence that Yab had on our lives.
But in reflecting over the years, it would be fair to say, that for most of my teammates and I, he, outside of our parents had the biggest influence on the way we operate today
Men such as Allan Jeans are a rarity and we will be forever grateful that we were in the right place at the right time to enjoy one of the greatest characters that we will ever meet. He leaves us all with wonderful memories and achievements.
On behalf of all us Scallywags Yab –
Our Sincerest thanks and goodbye, our leader and Friend.