Dean Laidley was tough on the field and fought his way to be an elite coach.
Dean Laidley was tough on the field and fought his way to be an elite coach.

How Laidley became known as the Junkyard Dog

Like few other players in football, Dean Laidley scrapped and clawed for everything he achieved as a player and coach.

His nickname preceded that ability to extract every bit of talent from his scrawny frame, even if Laidley never warmed to being called "The Junkyard Dog".

In two decades in football Laidley - arrested on Saturday and charged by Victoria Police with stalking - was never the type for a fireside chat or the game's most warm-and-cuddly personality.

But he had earned the grudging respect of most after his role as an inaugural West Coast player who missed the historic 1992 flag then won a premiership of his own with North Melbourne in 1996.

Dean Laidley has words with Che Cockatoo-Collins.
Dean Laidley has words with Che Cockatoo-Collins.

Then after starting his coaching education in footy's backblocks, he rose to the position as North Melbourne senior coach.

Not only did Laidley take a young North Melbourne side to September three times in his seven seasons, he guided them through the turbulent years when they stood firm and rebuffed the AFL's determination to relocate this proud club to the Gold Coast.

Laidley's football education as a spindly teen was instructive to everything that came afterwards, the young half back and midfielder raised in the working class suburb of Balga, north of Perth.

The cream of West Australia's football talent was determined to be listed by the new Eagles outfit, but by dint of his play for West Perth and an impressive role as a 17-year in the 1991 state-of-origin carnival he made the cut.

VFL St Kilda v West Coast Eagles in 1989 - Dean Laidley among the players getting very physical during the game.
VFL St Kilda v West Coast Eagles in 1989 - Dean Laidley among the players getting very physical during the game.

But despite making his debut in West Coast's first official game a knee injury saw him miss the 1992 premiership and he requested a trade.

Laidley landed at North Melbourne after 52 games and established himself as the ultimate utility, able to play half back, midfield or even take his spot as a tagger under Denis Pagan's disciplined sides.

He played 24 games in the 1996 premiership year then after retiring in 1997 built his way from the ground up as an AFL coach.

Instead of slotting into a highly-paid assistants role at an AFL club he took up a role with little-known Weston Creek in the Canberra league.

Soon he was back with former Eagles coach Mick Malthouse at Collingwood, and when Pagan walked for Carlton in 2002 after the Pies had made a Grand Final that year he was poised to return to North Melbourne.

Dean Laidley during a St Kilda training at AAMI Stadium.
Dean Laidley during a St Kilda training at AAMI Stadium.

It could have been an impossible task given the reverence so many players had for Pagan but the Roos played finals in three of those years including a preliminary final berth in 12007 (they lost heavily to Port Adelaide).

Laidley was a tactical innovator even if his gruff persona meant he was more about winning games of football than hearts and minds like Neale "The Reverend" Daniher.

Amid a review of his tenure at the end of 2009 he simply called the powers that be and told him he was done at year's end, unable to get any more improvement out of the Kangaroos list.

Then came years as an assistant coach at Port Adelaide, St Kilda and Carlton, where Laidley was a loyal and trustworthy lieutenant to an array of senior coaches.

His nickname preceded that ability to extract every bit of talent from his scrawny frame, even if Laidley never warmed to being called "The Junkyard Dog".

RELATED: DEAN LAIDLEY CHARGED WITH STALKING

An allegedly leaked photo of Dean Laidley after his arrest.
An allegedly leaked photo of Dean Laidley after his arrest.

 

Originally published as How Laidley became known as the Junkyard Dog

Laidley earned the nickname The Junkyard Dog.
Laidley earned the nickname The Junkyard Dog.
North Melbourne Coach Dean Laidley during three quarter time against the Bombers.
North Melbourne Coach Dean Laidley during three quarter time against the Bombers.
Laidley’s mug shot.
Laidley’s mug shot.