THE SUPER COACH HIS RECORD AND
John Taylor was considered an outsider when he arrived in Darwin in
1983 to coach St Marys, but after 252 games, including 11 premierships he is now very much one of the boys.
Taylor has also coached NTFL representative teams on 16 occasions, for 11 wins.
He is also a Life member of St Marys
There has been a string of achievements NTFL senior premierships, the Second Division title
at the 1988 Bicentennial Carnival and wins over Essendon (twice), North Melbourne, Sydney
Swans, the Victorian Football Association (in Melbourne) and
But things were a lot different for
Taylor when he first arrived in Darwin from Victoria where
He’d played in premierships with VFA club Geelong West in 1972 and 1975 and captained the Geelong (VFL) under 19’s
His coaching record included stints with St Peters in the Geelong Football League and Donald in Victoria's
powerful North Central Football League.
But those records meant little to Top End footy fans when
Taylor stepped off a plane and drove straight to Gardens Oval for the 1982/83 NTFL Grand Final between St Marys and Wanderers.
Close mate Peter Stennett was playing with Wanderers and
Taylor was keen to see them both in action. Wanderers won the Grand Final thanks to an Eddie Cubillo point in the dying seconds,
but Taylor recalls St Marys should have won.
He said: "I remember telling John Wilson, then my boss at
DEET that had St Marys been a little steadier and shown more poise they would have won by four or five goals."
Taylor, who at one stage was caught in a two way coaching tug of war between Darwin and St
Marys", finally settled on Saints after a phone call from Vic Ludwig confirmed his appointment for the 1983/84 season.
The outsider tag came about when the extent of his new job in a different football environment
began to dawn on Taylor.
He recalls: "It was a bit like “unknown coaching Collingwood. "Even the press picked
up on it with a headline “Outsider to coach Saints.”
"And no one at the club knew who I was or where I had come from. Ted Liddy often tells the story of how the players all asked each other “who is this John Taylor?"
But Taylor was taking over
a Saints side full of talented players hurt by successive losses to Wanderers in 1982 and 1983.
He said: "I was fortunate in my first year to have the likes of Ted Liddy, Michael Athanasiou,
Michael Graham and the Long boys playing at St Marys.
"They were prepared to give me a go and put up with some pretty tough training sessions, because
those grand final losses had made them keen enough and hungry enough to turn things around."
But not all the years at at Marys have been cheers and good times for the man dubbed “KJ”.
Taylor blamed complacency for the
1988/89 failure when the unbeaten Saints lost both the second semi and preliminary final.
He says complacency was also the problem in 1992/93 when Wanderers thrashed Saints in an amazing
Brian Hood's Eagles had crashed to a 20-goal defeat in the last home and away game and were
given little chance of winning the grand final.
But the glorious uncertainty of football surfaced when Wanderers came from from four goals
behind at quarter time to win in a canter.
Saints' loss prompted selective recruiting with an emphasis on players who were mentally tough.
And the highlights from 13 seasons of coaching?
Taylor said: "The first premiership
win against Darwin when we came from 19 points down at three
quarter time to win was pretty special.
"It set the standard for all the years I've been involved at St Marys.
"The bicentennial win in 1988, which gave the NT an opportunity to perform on a national stage,
"But the real highlight has been the chance to be associated with the calibre of people I've
had at St Marys and maintaining our standards year after year.
"The Long brothers, Cadji and Dennis Dunn, Michael Athanasiou and Ted Liddy, the list goes
Taylor's one big disappointment
has been the lack of recognition by Top End football fans to St Marys' continuous success.
He said: "The attitude of people when they say 'you win all the time, give someone else a
go' and the lack of recognition for the work that goes into winning premierships really galls me.
"And being accused at times of having personal vendettas against certain players and clubs
really annoyed me.
"I enjoyed coaching the representative sides and being associated, for a brief period at least,
with players from other clubs like Mark Motlop, Russell Jeffrey, Ninny Briston, Warren McCoy and Robbie AhMat."
Taylor has a word of caution for
He said: "While our performances at representative level have been nothing sort of sensational,
they far outweigh the capabilities of the local competition.
"We've got first rate facilities here and some great players at representative level.
"But the cold reality is we haven't got the population or the administrative back up to maintain
a team in a national competition.
"While the media still supports football in Darwin the public now has greater access to television
and world events such, the World Cup of cricket, soccer's FA Cup and of course AFL football.
"They demand a higher standard than the NTFL, are capable of delivering on the field."
Taylor is concerned also with the
standard of junior football and the tendency of some clubs to push juniors into senior football too early.
He said: "This continual push for juniors to play senior footy when they're not ready hasn't
helped the overall standard of the competition.
"We will always need our southern recruits despite local players providing the flair and 'the
backbone of the competition.
"All the performing clubs over the years have, relied on southern players, an area where St
Marys has dominated it to some extent.
"We've had some terrific local players but the cream of the cake for us has been the calibre
of the southern recruits."
"We haven't had many, but those we've got have been
strong characters both on and off the field."
Taylor agrees to disagree with those
people pushing for the local season to change to an April to September campaign to give the NT the opportunity to join a national
While agreeing the change of season is necessary for NT to become a national side, he does
not agree with the need to join such a league.
As he explained: "There's no way in the next 10 years the NTFL will be competing at a national
"What more can we do anyway? We won the Bi-Centennial
carnival, beat the VFA in Melbourne and the A.C.T. in our
"As long as we keep getting Wizard Cup games and regular representative games the crowds will
come to watch.
"But local football will suffer accordingly because Wizard Cup and representative games are
highlights on the football calendar.
"The league makes them highlights because they are the major fundraisers. Games like the grand
final take a back seat.
"Even SANFL and WAFL clubs visiting Darwin
for representative games won't be supported by the public.
"They are fed a diet of the best and will demand nothing less.
"The NTFL needs to put its dreams on the shelf for a while and concentrate on strengthening
the local competition.
"AFL games and representative clashes provide some dollars but local games are the ones that
put bums on seats.
"I think the NTFL can provide some administrative support to the clubs rather than risk becoming
a separate entity.
"But the clubs need to take on more responsibility and not point at the NTFL as the source
of all evil. "
Taylor is cautious about naming
the best players in his time with the Saints.
He said: "There have been so many great players, all with special characteristics like Dennis
Dunn, Brian Long, Michael Athanasiou, Noel Long and the three Christensen brothers.
"But 1 have to admit from a character and sheer magnetism point of view, Cadji Dunn was special.
"People just wanted to be around him. He was an “inspirational
footballer and sensation to watch." "I'll still be in the stands from time to time watching Saints and the game up here.
"Marle (wife) and I enjoy going to the football and as any lover of the sport knows. You’re
in this game all your life, not just for five minutes."
So with 229 wins and 23 losses and a winning percentage of 90.87% puts him in the “Don
Bradman” class of Australian Football in the top end and to go with his eleven League Premierships John also coached
St Marys to six umpire’s carnival wins