If you’re not familiar with Mick Malthouse, the easiest way to introduce him might be the AFL’s equivalent to Wayne Bennett.
Like veteran NRL coach Bennett, Malthouse has been at this a while. It was 1984 when the 61-year-old began his career with Footscray, who’ve since been rebranded as the Western Bulldogs.
From there it was to Perth, where he guided the West Coast Eagles to titles in 1992 and 1994. In his 10 years at the club, West Coast played finals footy in every one of them. He’s still very proud of that.
Malthouse then took Collingwood to four AFL grand finals. The 2010 edition, against St Kilda, finished in a draw with Collingwood claiming the “flag” in a replay a week later. When you have success and longevity, you also accumulate enemies and Malthouse, like Bennett, has plenty.
“We’re very similar, I totally understand [why you’d make the comparison]. I really like his company,” Malthouse said of Bennett.
“I haven’t seen him for a few years but we have met up from time to time and he’s done a fantastic job.”
People are always looking, or hoping, to write Bennett’s coaching obituary. Malthouse is the same, with many predicting he won’t last to see through the rebuilding job he’s now doing at Carlton. Malthouse is in his third season at the club and the results haven’t been too flash. Much to the delight of his detractors.
“I can’t answer for other people and I refuse point blank to get into any debate about whether that’s the case or not the case. It’s no use trying to change that.”
Carlton have started the 2015 season with two defeats, the most recent over in Perth against West Coast. They’ll be hoping for better when they play St Kilda at Westpac Stadium on Anzac Day, which is the reason Malthouse is talking to a newspaper in Wellington.
The St Kilda clash with be his 714th as a VFL/AFL head coach and will equal the record held by Jock McHale. It’s a decent feat, but not one that Malthouse is particularly excited about.
“It’s the last thing that I think about. I mean you can’t dismiss it but it’s not a priority,” he said.
“When everything finishes then you can look back, but it’s more a case of what’s in front of you being the most important part of your career. You can’t become nostalgic.
“I’m not disputing that it’s going to happen and it’s been an honour to be part of these football clubs, put it that way.”
You might be starting to get an insight into why Malthouse occasionally struggles for allies. The man is blunt and unapologetically so. Even the AFL, who instigated the interview to promote the Anzac Day match, said Malthouse might be tricky.
“I do generally get on pretty well with people in the organisation but the first and foremost thing I say to people is if you’re going to spend some time at a football club – whether it be one year or 10 years – the most important thing is that you come out of it being respected.
“You’re not necessarily going to be loved, so just make sure you’re respected.”
He’s certainly held in high regard, in coaching circles. Ireland rugby coach Joe Schmidt was in Malthouse’s coaching box for this year’s round one clash with Richmond and the pair have become reasonable pals since Matlhouse did an off-season stint in Dublin a couple of years back.
“You learn far more from the person than you do from the code. The code [rugby] is terrific and you can pick up little things but you learn so much more from people.
“Joe’s now a back-to-back Six Nations champion so the bloke can coach and he’s a delight to talk to. He’s very giving and he’s a wonderful person.”
Malthouse is also a fan of Anzac Day and said it be “an absolute privilege and honour” for him and the Carlton club to be ambassadors for Australia on such an occasion.