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Connolly upbeat despite quitting Dockers

By Tim Clarke 18/07/2007 05:18:34 PM Comments (0)

Chris Connolly has walked away from Fremantle after six tumultuous years as coach, leaving Mark Harvey as his likely short-term successor and questions over his long-term football future.

After a rallying call on Monday for the Dockers to stay united and "never give in", Connolly did exactly that on Tuesday following a meeting with close friend and club CEO Cameron Schwab.

Telling Schwab he would not be seeking a contract extension following a hugely disappointing season, Connolly was offered two more games in charge, which would have meant a home farewell against high-flying Geelong.

But with the writing on the wall, despite finals still being mathematically possible, Connolly left immediately.

"After Sunday (the four-point defeat to the Kangaroos) it was obvious I would not be coaching in 2008," Connolly said.

"Then we just felt there was a big dark cloud over the club with the speculation, with the innuendo ... and the players, the coaches, the administrators couldn't do their job properly.

"I felt the decision was to move aside now, and hopefully that will take the dark cloud away.

"It has happened quickly, but that is the nature of AFL footy, there are twists and turns within two weeks, within days.

"But it is a disappointing situation right now because I have loved being Fremantle, I have loved the challenges."

Starting the year as a premiership favourite, things quickly went sour for the Dockers with Byron Schammer floored by illness and Jeff Farmer banned for six weeks for an eye gouge.

Losses in their first three games were compounded by Farmer's assault charge and six-week club suspension, and Chris Tarrant following suit in Darwin.

Currently sitting 6-9, the final straw was Sunday's four-point loss to the Kangaroos, which left fans angry and stunned, and Connolly with little option.

The 44-year-old admitted high expectations had not been managed, and pressure had been on since the round one home loss to Port Adelaide.

"In hindsight you might say we have not handled the expectation at the start of the year," Connolly said.

"And it became apparent about midway through the third quarter in round one, when Port Adelaide kicked about 10 goals in row.

"Then an Essendon up and running and West Coast were in very good form, so to start the season 0-3 ... we have been trying to dig ourselves out of the hole we created early and haven't been able to do it."

Needing a minimum of six wins from seven games to qualify for the finals, and with a testing trip to Adelaide this weekend, former Essendon premiership player and assistant coach Harvey is considering an offer to take over as Dockers' caretaker coach.

Connolly and Schwab both spoke to the former Bomber on Tuesday, with the club to announce the appointment within 48 hours.

"He is looking at this in the context of his career as well," Schwab said.

"He needs to spend time talking to who he needs to speak to, and he may choose not take it on for the next seven weeks.

"He might not think that it is the best thing for his coaching aspirations.

"But he will get whatever advice over the next 24 or 48 hours and he will choose whether to take on that role or not.

"There is a plan A, but there are a few Bs and Cs."

As for Connolly's future, he said he had not yet considered applying for the vacant post at Melbourne, where he is a former player and life member.

"I haven't considered it, I haven't thought about it and I told my manager Colin Young I didn't want to talk about it," Connolly said.

"But I have got do something going forward."

Former Melbourne coach and Fremantle assistant Neale Daniher is also likely to be on the Dockers shortlist for next year.

Not since 1996, when John Northey went to the Brisbane Bears and Robert Walls moved south to Richmond, has there been a coaching swap in the AFL.

Connolly received immediate praise from Eagles counterpart John Worsfold, who was one of the other candidates for he job when Connolly took over in 2001.

"He has done a great job I think coaching Fremantle, and it is a credit to him what he has achieved," Worsfold said.

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