Coach Michael Barlow - Head of Development. Welcome to North!

Remove this Banner Ad


Michael Barlow: Hard work and empathy at heart of my journey back to an AFL role​

Headshot of Michael Barlow
Michael Barlow
The West Australian
Thu, 5 October 2023

Empathy is defined as: “the ability to understand and share the thoughts of another”.

It is this quality that I hold most closely in my own life and coaching. Through a variety of experiences throughout my life — from playing local football, state league football and AFL football to more recently existing in the coaching and media space — I feel adequately ready to re-enter the AFL environment as North Melbourne’s head of development.

When I was de-listed for the second time in my career by Gold Coast in 2018, I couldn’t separate myself from the AFL quick enough. I was somewhat bitter and exhausted by it.

I would later reflect on my 2018 season as one that has fully given me perspective in how I could have handled myself better in adversity of injury, non-selection, and career mortality, as well as how the circumstances of adversity and challenge have given me my second wind in a professional sense through coaching. Empathy is at the forefront of my coaching and relationships.

In any given moments on AFL lists, there are players that are flying personally and professionally, similarly some that are at the depths of despair in those areas. I’ve lived the full rollercoaster as a player.

Empathy is defined as: “the ability to understand and share the thoughts of another”.

It is this quality that I hold most closely in my own life and coaching. Through a variety of experiences throughout my life — from playing local football, state league football and AFL football to more recently existing in the coaching and media space — I feel adequately ready to re-enter the AFL environment as North Melbourne’s head of development.

When I was de-listed for the second time in my career by Gold Coast in 2018, I couldn’t separate myself from the AFL quick enough. I was somewhat bitter and exhausted by it.


I would later reflect on my 2018 season as one that has fully given me perspective in how I could have handled myself better in adversity of injury, non-selection, and career mortality, as well as how the circumstances of adversity and challenge have given me my second wind in a professional sense through coaching. Empathy is at the forefront of my coaching and relationships.

In any given moments on AFL lists, there are players that are flying personally and professionally, similarly some that are at the depths of despair in those areas. I’ve lived the full rollercoaster as a player.

The 2010-2015 existence of my AFL career was reflective of this rollercoaster. Bouncing on to the scene with big impact early, before a career threatening injury derailed a debut season.

In 2012 to 2015, I was a regular part in a finals team and knocking on the door of being a premiership player. The lessons across these years were to understand the importance of enjoying the journey — something you often oversight in the moment.

The team and I fell off the performance cliff for much of 2016. Another career-threatening injury put a fork in my time at the Dockers. It was then I would wish to have bottled the fulfilling moments across the career and carry into my life beyond this point.

Within two years, the gig was up — while sitting on a beach on the Gold Coast after my de-listing, I was at a loss to what was next. I’d lived my dream and it felt nothing could replace that achievement and ride.

My mum was battling a terminal illness and it was time to head back to Victoria to figure it out.

But fast forward to now — my ride post-career has been as fulfilling as when the boots had been laced up, largely off my lived experiences of success and challenges in the lead up to, and being, an AFL player have provided the perspective hopefully to now have a bigger impact on players living their dreams.

From sitting on that beach in 2018 to now, the recipe seems simple, but came with a commitment to do the AFL player transition with as much effort as I did the playing journey.

As it was once told to me: “the way you do anything is the way you do everything”.

I’d never envisaged becoming a coach within the AFL, but when Alastair Clarkson messaged to catch up you just take that meeting, as I did.

I will now re-enter the AFL with a different perspective toward the league after leaving as a player at 31-years-old — we at Werribee, where I coach now, embraced the underdog mentality every week, resulting in a 2023 grand final appearance.

What these part-time players, full-time workers commit to and achieve is so admirable. It makes living within the elite environment and performing seem basic.

The core ingredient for the possibility of success regardless of part time or professionals is effort. Get to work and do whatever you are doing now with great effort and the results will come in spades down the road.

There are some underdog similarities to attach to the North Melbourne situation. It would seem the talent is either there or on its way within the next 12-24 months.

Then the pre-requisite of effort and attitude to maximise that individual and collective talent is set to follow. I look forward to driving that mantra.

From never envisaging to coaching, to landing in the role I now hold at North Melbourne, you can’t help but reflect on what’s important — enjoying the journey, embracing the challenges and drawing on my own experiences in life and football to help.

Helping others has been far more fulfilling than helping myself.

For now I move beyond a Docker follower to the North Melbourne. Go Roos.
 
Is that like Voila ?
IFYKYK

IMG_4557.jpeg
 
Last edited:

Log in to remove this ad.

spurs

Norm Smith Medallist
Sep 2, 2003
5,847
2,830
Perth
AFL Club
North Melbourne
Other Teams
THFC, Claremont Tigers
Barlow sounds perfect for us. Give me effort and it will turn. If you combine talent with effort and we will be a hard team to beat.
 

Mute Point

Team Captain
Apr 21, 2019
380
1,588
AFL Club
North Melbourne
Barlow sounds perfect for us. Give me effort and it will turn. If you combine talent with effort and we will be a hard team to beat.
There'll be a few blokes on our list sweating bullets with him taking over from rowdy.
 

William Caresser

Club Legend
Mar 25, 2022
1,457
4,161
AFL Club
North Melbourne

Thanks for posting this - one of the best footy podcast episodes I've heard. He sounds very personable - will relate to the players really well but also clearly has lots of footy smarts.

Also really interesting to hear from Sheridan (backed up by Barlow) how Lyon coached the instinct out of young guys at Freo. Just sounded overwhelmed with defensive instructions/structures as a 19 year old. Pretty sure we have a few players who looked great playing on instinct when they arrived - like Powell - only to be given too many formulaic, robot-like instructions. Reckon Barlow will wind that crap back.
 
Mar 16, 2001
23,932
55,589
Melbourne VIC
AFL Club
North Melbourne
Other Teams
Wales, Eastwood, West Ham
Thanks for posting this - one of the best footy podcast episodes I've heard. He sounds very personable - will relate to the players really well but also clearly has lots of footy smarts.

Also really interesting to hear from Sheridan (backed up by Barlow) how Lyon coached the instinct out of young guys at Freo. Just sounded overwhelmed with defensive instructions/structures as a 19 year old. Pretty sure we have a few players who looked great playing on instinct when they arrived - like Powell - only to be given too many formulaic, robot-like instructions. Reckon Barlow will wind that crap back.
Like reading how Bobby Hill was coached not to fly for marks and play on instinct at GWS, and then told the opposite at Collingwood with spectacular results.
 

Souup

Norm Smith Medallist
May 8, 2005
7,746
26,922
AFL Club
North Melbourne
Wardlaw, Sheezel, Brayden George, Powell, Phillips, Goater, Ford, Bergman, PC

+

Large influx of quality in the '23 draft, whatever that looks like

Barlow could sit on his hands and do nothing for the next 4 years and is still likely to look like a genius. Fairly smart moving choosing to come to our club at this time, with the draft hand we have with Clarkson at the helm.

Won't do his future prospects of a senior coaching gig any harm I wouldn't have thought.
 

(Log in to remove this ad.)

Won't do his future prospects of a senior coaching gig any harm I wouldn't have thought.
Not quite sure him even doing a average job would harm his chances
Excited that he will bring plenty but he seems to have “Future Senior Coach” tattooed on his forehead
 

speedy

Norm Smith Medallist
Sep 5, 2001
7,178
8,887
Melbourne, VIC
AFL Club
North Melbourne
Loving the sound of Dawson......was an exciting get when we drafted him.
Love hearing newbies busting a nut at training just a couple of months into their careers. Unfortunately we need the young blokes to raise the training standards because too many of the older blokes let us down in that regard.
 

Remove this Banner Ad

Back