Kangas call time on Koop

Doug Koop has coached his last game for the Officer Football Club. 168493 Picture: ROB CAREW

By David Nagel and Tyler Lewis

Sacked Officer coach Doug Koop feels blindsided and disappointed after being dumped in extraordinary circumstances in the infancy stages of his sixth season at the club.

Koop went through his weekly routine and sent a message to his assistant coaches – including his replacements Anthony Bernardo and Troy Tharle – in preparation for training on Tuesday 7 May after a 78-point loss to Woori Yallock in round four of the Outer East Premier Division.

Koop then received a message from Officer president Nick McLennan that day, requesting a meeting prior to training.

“Nick asked me if I’d like a beer, and I said ‘No, I’ve got training to take’, and he said we need to talk about that,” Koop recalled.

“That’s when the penny dropped…prior to that I had absolutely no clue I was getting sacked.”

An unofficial review of the club had been taking place behind the scenes, by a group including former president Barry O’Loughlin and club legend Mick Moylan, who attended a committee meeting on Monday 6 May, to put forward their review’s findings.

O’Loughlin and Moylan, both currently not part of the committee, put forward a motion that Koop and his long-time ally – and reserves coach – Billy King, needed to be stood down immediately to avoid a second mass walk out of players.

Officer also had a mass walk-out prior to the commencement of the 2022 season.

The motion was then voted upon, with a non-unanimous decision by the committee seeing Koop and King given their marching orders.

Club president McLennan was not aware that the motion was being put forward prior to the committee meeting taking place.

Koop took the reins at Starling Road in 2017, leading the Kangaroos to their first finals appearance since 2004 in just his second season at the club.

He repeated the dose in 2019 before holding a 6-3 record at the conclusion of the Covid-impacted 2021 season.

He coached 61 matches for the Kangaroos recording 26 wins, one draw and 34 losses.

But his renowned football smarts were of no assistance this time around.

“There was no clue, no talk, no whisper, we’ve just been busting our gut to be as competitive as we could be with what we had, especially after the (pre-season) walkout,” Koop said.

“It was very well orchestrated, because they knew they had the numbers before they walked in and potential agitators weren’t even invited to the meeting.

“I’m dumbfounded and extremely disappointed in the whole process…it hasn’t been handled well.

“There’s been no reasons given, just that there was a motion put forward that I be removed or players were going to leave the club.

“There’s no substance to it, and why was it such a dramatic situation that it needed to happen now, I don’t understand.”

The 59-year-old Koop had struggled somewhat through Covid, while the pre-season walk-out, and opportunity missed to claim a winnable premiership in 2021, had also taken their toll.

“All those things had slowly eaten away at me and I had an agreement with Nick (McLellan) that this would be my last year,” Koop explained.

“He agreed with that, the committee agreed with that, and Nick even came to me and asked if I would help the club look for a new coach, which I agreed to do.

“Everything was going as smoothly as it could, considering all the circumstances.

“This has just come out of the woodwork, not a word from the people driving the agenda and now I’m not coaching anymore.

“The process has been performed with a general lack of respect…which I have now lost for others.

“Their intentions are good, because they’re Officer people at heart, but there was no substance as to why it had to happen, no benefit to the club and no investigation or remedial actions put in place to fix it.”

Koop said he had received messages of support from players who were shocked, and thought his sacking was not a decision made in the best interests of the club.

Koop, who has also been cast aside by Cranbourne and Dromana in previous stints at those clubs, said 2022 had provided a tough challenge after the pre-season walk-out of some high-calibre players.

But he was confident his honest and full-fronted approach to his coaching was not a part of the issue.

“I’m confident to say none of them left because of me,” he said.

“I’m brutally honest, some people like it and some people don’t, but we had a pretty good group in 2021 and we were potentially premiers last year.

“If Covid doesn’t hit and we win the flag…it’s a totally different situation.

“Now I feel like I’ve been cast aside like a dirty, smelly rag.”

The Gazette spoke to an Officer club insider, who wished to remain anonymous, but gave an opinion on what has transpired, both in the pre-season and most recently with the sacking.

“Let me put it this way, players left in the pre-season for various reasons, but there was a common thread through many of those departures,” the source said.

“There was still a healthy respect for Doug as a person, but not so much for his coaching.

“In Doug’s defence it could have been managed better, but those involved have the best interests of the footy club at heart.

“The general feeling now is we need to move on, get a new coaching panel together and get the club up and about.

“There’s a lot of work to be done…but when things aren’t right, they need to be sorted out.

“I think the general consensus is the club is now in a better place to move forward.”

McLennan explained how the process of terminating Koop’s contract so early in the season took place.

“At our last committee meeting the committee was approached by two members of the club, who put it to the committee that if the coaches weren’t removed effective immediately, the playing group were leaving,” he said.

“And that the opinion of the players was that the coaches needed to change, and it needed to happen now, because if a change didn’t occur, the club’s doors would be shut within a few weeks.

“The vote took place, it certainly wasn’t a unanimous vote, and it appears to be a vote that has very much driven a wedge between individuals within the club and that happens with contentious decisions.

“But ultimately the majority of the committee decided it was time to move in a different coaching direction and terminate the contracts of Doug Koop and William King.”

McLennan and heart-and-soul ruckman Sean Roach were the pair left to break the news to Koop and King.

“Myself and Sean Roach met with Doug and Bill the following evening prior to training and revealed to them the decision,” he said.

“They (Doug and Bill) were as surprised with the decision, and how it had happened, as I and Sean Roach were, but that being said took the decision quite well.

“I know this is not how Doug or Bill wanted to finish at the club, and this is certainly not how I wanted to see them finish their time at the club.

“From there the playing group was advised about the decision, and that has been met with a varying degree of opinions.

“But ultimately, (and) as I have said to the playing group: ‘what has happened has happened, we can’t change what has happened, it’s now about what we do going forward’.”

Bernardo and Tharle will coach the club for the rest of the season.