Chris Connolly (left) with Michael Broadbridge
|Date of birth||23 March 1963|
|Original team(s)||Shepparton United (GVFL)|
|Height / weight||175 cm / 76 kg|
1 Playing statistics correct to the end of 1989.
|Sources: AFL Tables, AustralianFootball.com|
Chris Connolly (born 25 March 1963) is a former Australian rules football player, coach and administrator, most notable for his six years as senior coach of the Fremantle Football Club in the Australian Football League.
During his playing career with the Melbourne Football Club, Connolly played 84 games and kicked 38 goals as a midfielder. He played from 1982 to 1987, and in 1989, with his career being interrupted and ultimately cut short by knee injuries.
Playing Career Timeline
1978 - captain of Goulburn Valley schoolboys side, winners of Under 15 Victorian State Championships
1979-1980 - Victorian Under 17 Teal Cup representative, Victorian vice captain, 1980
1980 - senior premiership with Shepparton United
1981 - Melbourne Football Club Under 19 premiership
1982 - Melbourne Football Club Under 19 captain and Club Champion
1982-1990 - Melbourne Football Club senior player
1983, 1985, 1986 - fourth in Club Championship
1987 and 1990 - knee reconstruction
1990 - retired
1991 - made a Life Member of the Melbourne Football Club
In 1991, Connolly was appointed as assistant coach at the Melbourne Football Club. He then went on to become the coach of the Under 18 Eastern Ranges team in 1992. In 1995, Connolly coached the Victoria Metro team.
In late 1995, Connolly joined the Hawthorn Football Club as reserves coach for the 1996 season. In 1998, he was elevated to the senior assistant coaching role. In 2001, Connolly coached one senior game at Hawthorn (Round 17 vs Carlton), in the absence due to illness of regular senior coach, Peter Schwab. Hawthorn won this game, with Ben Dixon kicking the winning goal after the siren.
Fremantle Football Club
Connolly took over the coaching reins at the Dockers for the 2002 season, following their wooden spoon season of 2001. In this first season, the struggle continued somewhat, with the team finishing thirteenth. However, Connolly then led Fremantle to its inaugural finals series in 2003, which resulted in a loss to Essendon at Subiaco Oval in the first elimination final.
In following seasons, Connolly was criticised for not building on that initial finals appearance, with the Dockers finishing ninth in 2004, and tenth in 2005, despite a late season surge.
Before the 2006 season, Connolly made only three changes to the playing list, trusting the young list that had been developed during his tenure. Despite an indifferent start, and with intense scrutiny on Connolly's coaching, Fremantle stormed home, winning a club record nine games in a row and finishing third at the end of the home and away season.
The 2006 finals series then saw the Dockers lose to Adelaide (away), before Connolly led them to the club's first ever finals win, against Melbourne at Subiaco Oval. Unfortunately, the Dockers' run ended the following week, with a preliminary final loss to Sydney.
In 2007, Connolly's future at Fremantle was constantly under scrutiny, as - despite starting the season as one of the premiership favourites - the team performed poorly. Fremantle president Rick Hart publicly stated that making finals would be a major factor in Connolly retaining the senior coaching post.
On 18 July 2007 - three days after Fremantle lost by four points to the Kangaroos at Subiaco Oval - Connolly announced that he would resign immediately. Connolly was given the chance to coach for two more games, but declined the offer. He departed the Dockers with a 52% coaching success rate. Assistant coach Mark Harvey coached the Dockers for the rest of the 2007 season in a caretaker role, and was eventually employed full-time.
Melbourne Football Club
In 2007, Connolly was shortlisted for the senior coaching role at Melbourne. However, he was unsuccessful, with the position going to Dean Bailey, while Connolly became football manager.
In 2013, an investigation into Melbourne's 2009 season found Connolly and former coach Dean Bailey guilty of discussions not in the best interests of the AFL. This related most specifically to a meeting in July 2009. This occasion became known colloquially as "the vault" meeting, in which Connolly allegedly openly discussed the potential benefits to the club of tanking.
As a result of the AFL's investigation, Connolly was banned from serving in any position at Melbourne until February 2014. However, following the resignation of both CEO and president, Connolly was sacked by the Melbourne Football Club in October 2013.
Coaching Career Timeline
1991 - assistant coach at the Melbourne Football Club
1992-1995 - inaugural coach of Under 18 Eastern Ranges side. AFL senior players produced: David Wirrpunda, Chris Scott, Brad Scott, Rayden Tallis, Kane Johnson, Adam Kingsley, Jess Sinclair, Mark Bolton
1996-1997 - Hawthorn reserves coach. AFL senior players produced: Ben Dixon, Angelo Lekka, Luke McCabe, Jade Rawlings, Jonathan Hay, Rayden Tallis, Brad Scott
1998-2001 - Hawthorn senior assistant coach. Round 17, 2001 - senior coach vs Carlton (MCG)
2002-2007 - Fremantle Football Club. Appointed as senior coach to help rebuild Fremantle both on and off the field.
2002 - took over the coaching reins following Fremantle's 2001 wooden spoon season and the declaration that the club had a $8 million debt. Won nine games but struggled to win away from Perth. Finished thirteenth.
2003 - new travelling routine had Fremantle finally winning away from home. Won fourteen games, playing - and unfortunately losing - first ever final, against Essendon at Subiaco.
2004 - Fremantle won 11 games, finished ninth
2005 - Fremantle won 11 games, finished tenth
2006 - Fremantle won 15 games, finished third and participated in finals, before losing preliminary final. Then awarded the Con Regan medal, which recognises those who 'have made an extraordinary, inspirational and personal contribution' to the Fremantle Football Club.
Connolly continues his involvement in the AFL arena, providing special comments on ABC Radio and AFL Live. He also works with Croc Media on the Footy WA television show, and is writing for the AFL Record and AFL website.
In 2014, Connolly also became a founding partner of Advanced High Performance, a company specialising in developing skill technique, coaching methods and sports management.
Connolly - who has a Bachelor of Education, majoring in physical education and science - taught at Northcote Technical School, and at Pembroke Secondary College in the outer eastern suburbs of Melbourne. He taught classes in physical education, health studies and specialist sporting activities.
- "Dockers Coach Connolly could go soon". The Age. 16 July 2007. Retrieved 8 May 2011.
- "Fremantle coach Connolly resigns". 19 July 2007. Retrieved 8 May 2011.
- Wilson, Caroline (20 February 2013). "Demons cleared, guilty fined". The Age. Retrieved 20 February 2013.
- Connolly sacked by Melbourne, The Age, 11 October 2013
Chris Connolly's statistics from AFL Tables