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A Bulldog turned Robin

Saturday, 4th May, 2019

West co-coach David Ruddock goes up against his old club North this weekend for the first time. PICTURE: Tyler Hannigan West co-coach David Ruddock goes up against his old club North this weekend for the first time. PICTURE: Tyler Hannigan

By Tyler Hannigan

The local football community was turned on its head late last year when news broke that David Ruddock and Chris Jones here heading to West as their coaches for 2019.

Ruddock had been synonymous with the North Football Club throughout his career as a player and coach. Ruddock was a skilled, tough and uncompromising player in his 200-plus game career in the blue and white before he transitioned into coaching. 

He led the Bulldogs in three separate stints as senior coach, winning premierships in 2004, 2011 and most recently 2016 with Jones as his assistant. He has also coached the Broken Hill combined team on numerous occasions.

2016 was Ruddock’s last as North’s head coach with Jones taking the reins the following season in which North would lose the grand final to South. Both sat out of the 2018 season before they were appointed as West co-coaches for 2019.

“I finished up after the premiership in 2016 and I thought that would have been it,” Ruddock admitted.

“But with the way that football was going in Broken Hill, Chris Jones and I decided that if we could help either Central or West we would and we decided to put in for the West job and here we are.”

With such a history at the Bulldogs, Ruddock said that he still has strong feelings for the North Football Club but he and Jones have been made to feel at home out West.

“After playing over 200 games and playing in five premierships and coaching three you tend to love that club,” he said.

“But things have changed. We’ve been welcomed at the West footy club, the board has been fantastic, everything we’ve asked for we’ve got. The preseason was great, (the playing group) worked really hard and we’re looking forward to what’s ahead.”

Despite not coaching in 2017 or 2018, Ruddock said that he kept up with the game at a local and national level.

“I still kept up to date and I study footy pretty well, and I did a bit of work with the Central Districts footy club in Adelaide.

“Styles have changed and things have moved along, the game has gotten quicker but in country footy you can still get away with some of the old fashioned stuff,” he added.

“So we’ve brought a bit of both into it and the West lads are really adapting to it. We’re a long way off where we want to be but we’re definitely improving.” 

Having coached North, a club that expects success and a playing group that regularly challenges for premierships, Ruddock said he and Jones faced some early challenges at the Robins who haven’t tasted the ultimate success since 1990 and haven’t played in a grand final since 2007.

“I found that the only trouble that Chris and I had when we started the preseason is the things that we’d tell North and they would naturally just go and do it, where with West we had to go back to the basics,” he said.

“While they have had a good junior program, we had to get back to basics with the senior squad but they’ve adapted really well and we’ve recruited really well.”

Over his coaching career at North, Ruddock never spent too long in the senior role before stepping away for a period but that could change at West.

“We’re going to stay as long as it takes,” he said.

“We don’t give up on things easily and we’ve put our minds to getting West back near the top of the ladder, and that’s what we’re going to do whether it takes one year, two years or five years. We hope we can help them in that way.”

Ruddock and Jones could hardly have made a better start to at West as the Robins crushed Central on Anzac Day by 127 points. But Ruddock said they’ll need to be better if they’re going to beat North.

“From last week’s game, even though it looked good, I wasn’t happy at times,” he said.

“They went back into some old habits after we’ve spent 10 to 15 weeks teaching them to get out of those habits. 

“We just want the intensity level to be high and for us to play our style of footy. We’ve got to protect the corridor a lot more than we did and we’ll set up quite a bit differently against North this week.”

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