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Burke reveals his one regret after Bulldogs sack the AFLW coach

Sacked Western Bulldogs AFLW coach Nathan Burke has expressed regret over publicly criticising his players’ fitness and professionalism, saying his comments dented the trust of his group.

Key points:

Former St Kilda champion Nathan Burke was sacked as Bulldogs coach after they finished bottom in the AFLW
Burke had called out the fitness and professionalism of his players mid-season as they struggled to find a win
Burke became coach in 2020 and led the Bulldogs to the finals at the end of 2022 with a 7-3 record

The Bulldogs booted Burke out of the job on Wednesday following a poor season in which the club won just one game and finished bottom of the ladder.

Prior to that victory and halfway through the season, Burke blasted the lack of professional standards in his squad, and labelled his players unfit after a bad pre-season.

“One thing I mucked up this year was I publicly said the players weren’t quite fit enough and they weren’t ticking every single box,” Burke told ABC Radio Melbourne.

“If I had my time again I wouldn’t have done that. That was just a spur of the moment thing. That sort of hurt some of the players.

“I went from the players to going public and that dented a little bit of trust in me as coach and fair enough.

“I put my hand up and apologised to the players after that. So I would do that differently, completely.”

Burke, 53, led the club for five seasons and moved from a part-time to a full-time coaching role after reaching the finals last year.

Under his guard, the Bulldogs won 18 times from 46 games.


History will tell whether it was the right decision for the club to move on, according to Burke.

“I’ve been there for four years, five seasons, only 46 games so it’s not a lot of coaching in that time,” the former St Kilda champion said.

“We had a one and nine season, some of that was on me, some of that was out of my control.

“With football I’m a realist. There’s a line in the sand, we need to make changes and move forward and I just happened to be the easiest one to make a change.”

Burke lamented a “horrid” pre-season where several players suffered injuries.

The Bulldogs also lost key players to other teams as expansion sides continue to poach top-end talent from established clubs.

“Players went into the season unfit. For the last three games I didn’t have enough to field a team so we had to use top-up players from our VFL program which finished three months prior,” he said.

“I didn’t actually break any of those players down or injure them so that’s out of my control.

“What I do with those players, the 19 that I’ve got and the top-ups, that’s in my control and they (the club) quite within their right said you weren’t quite doing enough with that group that you had.”

On Wednesday, the club thanked Burke for his contribution over the past five seasons.

“He became our first full-time coach after leading the team to finals at the end of 2022, and has developed strong relationships with his staff and players during his tenure,” CEO Ameet Bains said.

“After careful consideration, the club has decided to move in a different direction heading into next season, as we strive for sustained success in all aspects of our women’s football program.”

Burke suggested he would coach again, saying a “second-chance” coach would be able to learn from past mistakes.

“It’s my vehicle to make a difference in other people’s lives — it’s the best one that I’ve got,” he said.

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Author: Russell White