Neil Craig

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For the American football player, see Neal Craig.
Neil Craig
Personal information
Full name Neil P. Craig
Date of birth (1956-01-11) 11 January 1956 (age 59)
Draft 2, 1981 VFL draft
Playing career1
Years Club Games (Goals)
North Adelaide
Coaching career3
Years Club Games (W–L–D)
166 (92–74–0)
011 0(1–10–0)
177 (93–84–0)
1 Playing statistics correct to end of 1990 season.
3 Coaching statistics correct as of 2013.
Career highlights

Neil P. Craig (born 11 January 1956) is the General Manager, Performance at the Essendon Football Club,[1] formerly the head of coaching development and strategy.[2] a former Australian rules footballer, fitness adviser, and former coach of the Adelaide Football Club, as well as a former caretaker coach of the Melbourne Football Club.

Playing career[edit]

Craig played a total of 319 games (and kicked 220 goals) in the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) as well as 11 State of Origin matches for South Australia.

He played 126 games for the Norwood Football Club, debuting as a 17-year-old in 1973. He was a part of their premiership sides in 1975 and 1978, before leaving the club after the 1979 season.[3]

Craig played 134 games for Sturt (captaining the side in 1985 and 1986) between 1980 and 1986 and was also captain of South Australia in 1984.

He moved to North Adelaide, where he finished his career, playing 61 games between 1987 and 1990. At one stage of his career, Craig was pursued by Footscray, a Victorian team in the Victorian Football League (VFL), but declined the offer as he preferred to stay in South Australia.[4] At that time there was a great rivalry between the VFL and SANFL and both competitions considered themselves the best in Australia.

Post-playing career[edit]

In 1991, Craig became the coach of Norwood, a position he held until 1995. In 2002, he was inducted into the South Australian Football Hall of Fame[5]

Fitness advising[edit]

Craig hails from a fitness background and holds a sports science degree.[6]

He has worked with the Australian cycling team at the Olympic Games and with the South Australian Institute of Sport, as a senior sports scientist.[7] He has worked under cycling legend Charlie Walsh at the Australian Cycling Federation (where he was Sports science co-ordinator)[8] and also recruited Walsh as part of the Crows' AFL coaching panel.[9]

Adelaide Crows[edit]

In 1997, Craig took up the position of fitness adviser and assistant coach in the AFL with the Adelaide Crows. He is credited with helping devise the fitness regime that led the Crows to back-to-back premierships in 1997 and 1998 in which players are trained harder to reach peak fitness during finals matches.[10]

Craig left the club in 2000 to help the Australian Olympic cycling team during the Sydney Olympics but return in 2001 to be an assistant coach to Gary Ayres. In late 2001 Neil was the favourite for the West Coast Eagles coaching job in 2002 but he pulled out. He took over the senior coaching position in 2004 as caretaker when Ayres left the club after Round 13. He was then appointed for the 2005 season, leading the Crows to their first minor premiership and a preliminary final in his first full season as a senior coach. Under Craig the Crows reached the finals for five consecutive years, for a finals' coaching record of three wins and six losses. Craig resigned on 25 July 2011 after a 103-point loss to St Kilda.[11] He left the club as the longest serving coach in the Crows' history.

Melbourne Demons[edit]

After his resignation as Adelaide coach, Craig remained employed by the Crows for the remainder of the season. On 29 September 2011, however, he signed as the Director of Sports Performance at the Melbourne Football Club, beginning in the 2012 season. His primary role was mentoring and assisting the players of the club, in particular the younger players, and to mentor and assist the other assistant coaches, including an assistant coach.[12]

Despite the off-season acquisitions of several experienced players, such as Shannon Byrnes, Tom Gillies, Chris Dawes, David Rodan and Jack Viney, the Demons underachieved in the first half of 2013 AFL season, managing just 1 win in their first 11 games. As the result of this poor start to the 2013 season, after the Demons' mid-season bye on 17 June 2013, the Demons' head coach, Mark Neeld, was sacked. His sacking came within weeks of the departures of senior Demons' staff members Cameron Schwab and Don McLardy. Subsequently, Craig was appointed as the caretaker coach of the Demons for the remainder of the 2013 season.[13] Craig coached the Demons for 11 games, managing just 1 win, for a winning percentage of just 9%. Craig was replaced as head coach by former Sydney Swans premiership coach Paul Roos at the end of the season.

Essendon Football Club[edit]

On 10 October 2013, Craig was appointed to the newly created role of head of coaching development and strategy at the Essendon Football Club[14] and then on 15 April 2014, he was promoted to the position of General Manager, Performance. In this role Craig will oversee all team performance functions including coaching, development and high performance meaning that the coaching staff will report to him.[1]

Coaching statistics[edit]

Season Team Games Coached Wins Losses Draws Points % Ladder Position League Teams
2004 Adelaide 9 4 5 0 44.4% 12 16
2005 Adelaide 25 18 7 0 72.0% 1 16
2006 Adelaide 24 17 7 0 70.8% 2 16
2007 Adelaide 23 12 11 0 52.2% 8 16
2008 Adelaide 23 13 10 0 56.5% 5 16
2009 Adelaide 24 15 9 0 62.5% 5 16
2010 Adelaide 22 9 13 0 40.9% 11 16
2011 Adelaide 16 4 12 0 25.0% 14 17
2013* Melbourne 11 1 10 0 9.1% 17 18
Career totals 177 93 84 0 52.54% 8.33 16.33

* = Caretaker Coach


Sporting positions
Preceded by
Gary Ayres
Adelaide Football Club coach
Succeeded by
Mark Bickley (caretaker)
Preceded by
Mark Neeld
Melbourne Football Club coach
2013 (caretaker)
Succeeded by
Paul Roos