Adelaide Crows coach Don Pyke has stepped down from the position, insisting the decision was his alone and had nothing to do with an external review into the side’s form slump.
- Pyke has been under pressure after the Crows failed to make the AFL finals for a second consecutive year
- The club launched a sweeping review of its performance, but said that was “unrelated” to Pyke’s departure
- Pyke was appointed at the end of 2015 and says the decision to step down was “extraordinarily difficult”
Pyke has coached the Crows for four seasons and led the club in 93 matches, encompassing two finals campaigns, including the 2017 Grand Final.
The club said in a statement his decision to step down was “unrelated to internal and external reviews of the football department, which are currently taking place”.
“It has been an absolute privilege and joy to coach this club and I have loved my time here trying to achieve great things with our players for our members and fans,” Pyke said.
“I came here with the aim of helping our players to individually and collectively be the best they can be and this has been my driving force.
“It has been a wonderful ride with some great memories and unfortunately some sad times, but now it is clear to me it is my time to move on knowing I have given my all.”
Pyke is the third longest-serving senior coach at Adelaide.
The club said Pyke had told chairman Rob Chapman and chief executive Andrew Fagan about his intentions to step down a fortnight ago.
Pyke was contracted until the end of 2021.
Taylor Walker announced he would step down as captain on September 4.
The Crows have missed finals for the past two seasons.
At the end of the season, the club announced a “full, thorough and comprehensive” review into its performance after an unexpected and highly-criticised form slump.
The external review is being chaired by former Hawthorn great Jason Dunstall.
Pyke: ‘I ultimately accept responsibility’
At a media conference this afternoon, Pyke said it was a hard call to make.
“The decision has been extraordinarily difficult to reach and I do so following some serious and honest post-season reflections,” he said.
“The timing and outcome of this review plays no bearing in my decision.
“The team’s recent performance and the current state of the club and the playing group is not to our or my expectations and for this, in my role, I ultimately accept responsibility.
“In the end it came down to what I felt was in the best interests of the team and the club.
“I believe that the club needs some clean air and a fresh page to move forward and feel that for me to continue would hold back progress to move positively into next season.”
He thanked his wife and daughters for their support and said the playing group would hold a “special place” in his heart.
“I believe I still have a lot to offer the game, but will now take some time with family and friends before deciding my future path,” he said.
“When the side is performing as it is I recognise that, with others, I’m part of the problem quite clearly.”
Adelaide Football Club chairman Rob Chapman said there was no termination payment and “discussions were ongoing”.
“It hurts. I’m not happy about it and I’m still wrestling right up to the last minute — is this right? I’m still not sure,” Chapman said.
“It will be an extensive search to find the very best replacement.
“We’re confident we can do that and will take as much time as we need to.”
Coach was expected to stay
At the time the review was announced, Fagan said he expected Pyke would remain, but would be subjected to the same accountability measures as others in the organisation.
The review’s key findings will be released publicly.
“Obviously we won’t release a full review document because it’s important as part of these reviews because confidentiality actually ensures we’ll get full disclosure from everyone and identify any issues,” Fagan said at the time.
A number of players are rumoured to be leaving the club next year, including small forward Eddie Betts.
Last month Betts confirmed there had been interest from other clubs, but no contract offer.
Betts has been linked to both Gold Coast and Carlton.