Adelaide have appointed a well-travelled AFL expert who is a regarded as a master tactician.
A year after appointing renowned football strategist Phil Walsh as their head coach, the Crows have followed the same script with Don Pyke.
A 46-year-old who was born in the United States, Pyke is Adelaide’s 10th coach since the club entered the AFL in 1991.
He’s the sixth man named to coach the Crows in the past five years – since 2011, Neil Craig, Mark Bickley (interim), Brenton Sanderson, Walsh and Scott Camporeale (interim) have led the club.
Pyke replaces Walsh, who was allegedly murdered by his son last July, as the club’s fulltime head coach.
And Pyke’s appointment follows the template favoured by Adelaide powerbroker, football director and club great Mark Ricciuto.
A smart `footy brain’. An experienced, long-time assistant coach. A bloke who had an esteemed playing career. And a man captivated by the science and tactics of football.
Pyke is the son of Judy and Frank Pyke – who himself has an impressive sporting curriculum vitae and is recalled as the man who saved the cricket career of Australia’s legendary fast bowler Dennis Lillee, after helping rehabilitate the paceman from back stress fractures.
Frank played 130 WAFL games and was a brilliant player – he was runner-up in WA’s Sandover medal and played for his state.
He left to study in the United States in 1966 and graduated with a PhD in exercise physiology and human performance – later becoming a sport science teacher in a career which also included being the Victorian Institute of Sport’s inaugural executive director.
In 1968, Don Pyke was born in Bloomington, Illinois. Six years later the family returned to Perth, then Canberra where the youngster played Australian Rules and cricket for the territory.
In 1987, Pyke was signed by WAFL club Claremont. A year later, West Coast signed him as a pre-draft selection.
A classy midfielder, Pyke played in the Eagles’ 1992 and 1994 premiership sides and shared the club’s 1993 best and fairest award with Glen Jakovich.
He played 132 games until retiring at the end of the 1996 season and would later be named in West Coast’s team of the decade, and separately be given life membership.
After retiring, Pyke became the Eagles runner for two years before coaching Claremont in 1999 and 2000.
He then returned to West Coast as a director, chairing the club’s football affairs committee until 2004.
Pyke joined the Crows in 2005 as an assistant coach to Craig before returning to WA in 2007 for business reasons – he held a commerce degree and had worked as a senior accountant and financial controller, and was a founding partner in a private oil and gas company, among other roles.
But football again came calling and, in October 2013, Pyke was lured back to the Eagles under their new head coach Adam Simpson.
Tasked with `strategy, stoppages and structure’, Pyke’s nous and astute plotting helped take the Eagles into this year’s grand final, where they eventually came up well short against a rampant Hawthorn outfit.
During West Coast’s finals campaign, the jungle drums were already beating in Adelaide: he was the man the Crows wanted as their next senior coach.