The work never stops for an AFL senior coach. Once the home and away season is over and the players are on break, they keep grinding away, learning how to improve not just their team, but themselves.
This quest for self-improvement will often take them to all corners of the globe, engaging in dialogue with coaches from all over the world, in an effort to nurture a more well-rounded coaching style to massage further improvement from the playing list.
Whether it be Nathan Buckley learning from elite American college football program Notre Dame, or Alastair Clarkson picking the brains of Darren Cahill, former tennis coach of Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi, there are aspects from all sports that can be aligned with AFL football.
Nothing about the last two years of football has been regular though, and for David Noble, those trips abroad to study other sports is impossible due to current Covid regulations.
Noble says while its disappointing he can’t experience these things ‘live’, he’s implementing other ways to learn over the off-season.
“It’s more phone calls and connections. There’s a couple of online groups overseas … where you can jump on round table discussions,” he told SEN.
“Over time we’ve all built up connections with people able to put us in touch with other sporting clubs. I’ve got a friend who’s involved in international hockey and I’ve been able to pick his brains a fair bit.
“People like that, you tend to meet across the journey, and you’re able to talk about concepts of how they attack, train and educate.
“It’s a bit more that way at the moment [rather] than being able to do it live."
With his first season as a senior coach under his belt, Noble is looking firmly ahead to the 2022 season, keen to implement not only his learnings from other coaches, but his learnings from his debut campaign.
After a successful period in football administration, he finally earned his chance as a senior coach this season and has impressed with his holistic approach to player development.
“It’s the constant thought process, the constant thinking around how you’re going and how you’re getting there, injuries, what’s happening in the game,” Noble said.
“The level of intensity certainly goes up a fair few cogs when you’re in the hot seat versus when you’re there trying to support the senior coach.
“That’s been a great experience I’ve really enjoyed, and I think I’ve learnt a bit more about myself as I’ve gone along the year. Hopefully I’ll be better for the first year’s experience.”
Despite a poor performance in the final game of the season, the improvement made by North Melbourne in the second half of the season was clear for all to see.
With three wins and a draw coming after the bye, compared to just the one victory that came before it, things started to click for the Kangaroos as the year progressed.
“We’ve done our reviews, in both our lines and development areas … we thought we’d made some ground in the back half, there’s no doubt,” Noble said.
“We got to the bye and sort of reset a few things, put some more education in there, [but] with the way we finished our last game we were really disappointed.
“We certainly had some improvement in our players. Our game-style started to evolve and I think our fans could see where we were going.”