A FAMOUS newspaper editor once told me: “When you’re a leader it doesn’t matter if everyone likes you, but they do have to respect you”.
Speaking one-on-one with Andrew Ruck, you get the impression he’s the kind of coach who players would listen to.
Not one to mince words and never shy of an opinion, Ruck’s honest and open approach to footy is one you expect commands respect.
And it’s been a winning formula for Royals Football Club over the past two years, with Ruck leading the Lions to back- to-back premierships in the Great Southern Football League.
After signing on for another season with the Lions over the summer break, Ruck’s Royals will try to etch themselves into the record books when they vie for a three-peat in 2021.
Although Ruck says he’s been lucky with the level of talent that’s come into the club since taking over the reins in 2018, his coaching skills have clearly had something to do with the League team winning 26-games in-a-row.
Ruck knows as well as most how demanding the national code can be.
Like many aspiring country footballers hoping to play at the elite level, he moved to Perth in an attempt to get drafted into the AFL system.
The former Claremont ruckman reckons he was about a 50/50 chance of getting picked up by an AFL club, but like many, the right cards didn’t fall his way.
“It gives you an idea of how hard it is to break in,” Ruck told the Weekender.
“The hardest thing to teach kids is they probably aren’t going to play AFL.”
After playing what he described as his best year of footy, Ruck’s 76-game WAFL career was cut short when he damaged his anterior cruciate ligament in 2011 and required a full knee reconstruction.
But while one door closed, another opened.
Coaching opportunities came up in the PSA system and State 15’s before spending two seasons as assistant coach with the Perth Demons.
Keen to take charge of his own side, Ruck was then appointed the new Colts Coach in 2016.
He had immediate success, guiding the young Demons to a minor premiership during his first year in charge.
However, Ruck eventually became frustrated with the way the WAFL Commission was running the Colts competition and decided a move to the country was just what he needed.
After Royals bowed out in the first week of finals in 2018, Ruck took over from James McRae and guided the Lions to successive premiership wins over Railways and Denmark – each decisive Grand Final victories.
“I’ve got my ideas, and I’m happy to tinker and change them, but I’m pretty big on a few things which I’ve seen in my time which makes a club a club,” Ruck said.
“The most enjoyable thing is we have a fantastic coaching group. I don’t go to footy to get away from the missus, I come down to catch up with mates.
“Winning is just a bonus. We’ve had a few good strategies but other clubs will sort us out, no doubt.”
Boasting some high-class veterans and a talented group of youngsters, Ruck said his team had found the right mix of youth and maturity.
“I just think we’ve got a good core,” he said.
“Five to six really good older blokes who are still really fit and working hard and we’ve got across the club 20-30 guys between 18 and 25 who are bloody good kids.”
Ruck says a number of his players are getting calls from other clubs, but he’s confident they’ll stick firm.
“I back our boys in,” he said.
“They can get $300 bucks to play each round, but is it all about money? Probably not.
“At other clubs someone like Jayson Ford could get $500 a game but we don’t pay money.”
Ruck says he’s got at least one more year with Royals, but beyond that is the unknown.
“At this stage, I’ve definitely got one more year and anything can change, but I’ m really enjoying myself, so we will give it this year and reassess,” he said.
“I’ve had the motto lets paint the town blue. So it’s something we’ve been running with.
“Whenever I drive past a Royals number plate or I see blue shorts or jumper, it puts a smile on myself to know there are heaps of people around who are Royals people.”