The coaches: Ted Rowell
By: Michael Roberts
Years coached: 1907-08
Ted Rowell faced a tough job when he took over as Collingwood coach for the 1907 season.
For a start, he was taking over a club that had endured a tumultuous 1906, with player dissension rife and the playing coach, Dick Condon, suspended by his own committee for being a major cause of that unhappiness.
But to make matters worse, Rowell became the first coach to have to win a clearance from the VFL to take up his post.
The trouble stemmed from a new rule the League introduced in February of 1907, as it tried to take greater control over all people working for the clubs. The rule said that: “Any person who has been refused a permit by the league to play, or has been disqualified shall not be allowed to hold any position whatever in connection with any league club until such permission be granted as disqualification removed by the league.”
Rowell’s problem was that the League had refused to grant him a playing permit when he returned to Victoria Park in 1905 after a one-year sojourn in the goldfields of Western Australia. Their stance forced Rowell to watch from the sidelines for a year, effectively banning him from the game.
So when Collingwood decided it wanted the steady, highly regarded Rowell to take over as coach from the combustible Dick Condon, it had to seek VFL approval to do so.
The early signs did not look good, with the Permit Committee hearing in April refusing a similar request from the Melbourne Football Club to appoint W Monagle as ground caretaker and coach. But fortunately they came to a different conclusion in Collingwood’s case, and Rowell was declared clear to coach the Pies for the princely sum of £1 per week.
The club was still shaken after the events of 1906, but Rowell and the equally reliable Arthur Leach, who has taken over as skipper late the previous year, provided a steadying influence. But while those appointments brought stability, they didn’t bring success: the team finished in fourth spot and lost its only final.
Rowell himself had an outstanding season on the field, finishing fifth in the competition goalkicking, but 1908 proved a different story. He missed a number of games through injury, the team didn’t seem to be progressing (it lost four of its first five games and for a while was sitting on the bottom of the ladder), and there was another mid-season change of captain. Rowell felt the coaching role wasn’t helping his game, or the team’s, so the club arranged for the great Bill Strickland to take over for the latter stages of the season.
Rowell enjoyed the release from responsibility. In 1909, freed of the burdens of coaching, he moved into the back line and became a stalwart in defence for the next six years, including the 1910 Premiership.
He might not have spent long as Collingwood coach, just over 18 months, but he returned some stability to the club at a time it was sorely needed, and helped set up the flag that was to follow a couple of years later.