A menacing bump solved most of John Worsfold’s problems during his playing days, but he’ll need to tap into his softer side if he is to conquer the biggest challenge of his AFL career – fixing Essendon.
Worsfold will forever be remembered as a West Coast legend.
The man nicknamed Woosha was as hard as they come during his decorated 209-game playing career, with fearsome bumps a feature of his game.
He finished his playing days as a two-time premiership-winning captain, and his status in the AFL was further enhanced when he coached West Coast to the 2006 flag.
Now, after two years out of the loop, Worsfold has decided to venture out of his comfort zone by taking on the head coaching role at Essendon.
Worsfold’s mission isn’t just to coach the Bombers well. it’s also to pick up the pieces of a broken club.
And he’s had plenty of experience in that regard.
Worsfold played a central role in cleaning up West Coast’s party culture at the end of 2007.
Players were out of control at the time, and the drug habits of stars such as Ben Cousins, Daniel Kerr and Daniel Chick started making headlines.
Many people pointed the finger at Worsfold for letting the situation get out of hand. But to his credit, Worsfold took it on the chin and went on to play a key role in fixing the issues.
On-field results suffered as a result, culminating in a wooden spoon in 2010.
But Worsfold’s hard work behind the scenes set the foundations for a morally-strong player culture that still exists today – a culture that will play a key role in helping the Eagles achieve sustained success under current coach Adam Simpson.
The current mess at Essendon is different to that suffered by the Eagles last decade.
At West Coast, it was the players who got out of control – a situation that required stern authority to get them back into check.
At Essendon, it was the hierarchy that was to blame – allowing a dangerous supplements regime to wreak havoc at the club.
As a result, the morale of Essendon’s player group is shot, and their love of the game has diminished.
Worsfold’s task now is to help them regain their passion, build up their confidence, and win over their trust.
The players are still fragile, so Worsfold’s challenge is to become a shoulder to lean on.
That’s ironic considering the amount of damage his shoulders inflicted during his playing days.
On an individual note, Worsfold has a point to prove in his new gig.
Despite guiding West Coast to finals action in eight of his 12 seasons in charge, some experts still question whether Worsfold is a good coach.
Robert Walls even went as far as labelling him “ordinary”.
How Worsfold fares over the next few years will go a long way towards either feeding or starving his critics.