Neil Balme

Image DOB: 15 January 1952

First game as coach: Round 1, 1994 vs Geelong at MCG
Last game as coach: Round 9, 1997 vs Port Adelaide at Football Park

All Australian coach - 1994


Balme was recruited by Richmond from Subiaco in 1969 and earned a reputation as a fearsome on-field enforcer en route to two premierships with the Tigers. After 159 games and a number of trips to the VFL Tribunal he retired from VFL football after suffering a knee injury and took up an offer to coach Norwood in the SANFL in 1980.

Balme steered the Redlegs to two premierships in 1982 and 1984 and remained as their coach until 1990, never once missing the finals in eleven seasons. In 1991 he took up the coaching duties with the merged Woodville-West Torrens side and took them to the finals in his two seasons in charge. After having turned back the overtures of VFL clubs for much of the 1980's success at the new club convinced him to take up an offer to coach Melbourne in 1993.

Taking over a side who had crashed out of the finals for the first time in five years during 1992 Balme only managed to improve Melbourne's ladder position by one spot but in 1994 his side went all the way to a preliminary final, and he was named coach of the year.

It was to be his highlight, and thereafter his sides struggled. They missed the 1995 finals after a Round 22 loss to Brisbane, and struggled through the 1996 campaign overshadowed by merger talk and a growing injury crisis.

A shock win over premiers North Melbourne in Round 1, 1997 seemed to indicate that the was shifting for Balme and the Demons but they didn't win another game until the week after he was sacked. A terrible first two quarters of the Round 6 match against St Kilda caused new President Joseph Gutnick to go on radio and announce that there would be changes.

Balme may have been sacked in the week after the match but survived narrowly with the support of captain Garry Lyon and new CEO Cameron Schwab. Gutnick pledged his loyalty to Balme for the rest of the season but two more big losses - including a three goal performance against Port Adelaide in their first senior match against the Demons sealed his fate.

The coach was asked to resign, but when he refused he was sacked and replaced by Greg Hutchison for the rest of 1997.

Appointed as a ruck coach by Essendon in 1998, Balme later served in the football departments of Collingwood and Geelong.

Football Record R1 1993
"The last straw" - The Age 29/05/1997
"Nothing gained: Balme" - The Age 29/05/1997

Redlegs Museum profile
Wikipedia profile

Created by Supermercado. Last Modification: Monday 26 October 2015 18:15:03 AEDT by Supermercado. (Version 16)


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