By Stuart Kavanagh
Season 2022 sees the curtain come down on the career of one of the longest serving members of the Broken Hills AFL community.
Current West coach and former three-times North Broken Hill premiership coach David Ruddock walks away from the game for good at the end of this season.
A handy footballer, David began his career in coaching as many people do, coaching kids. He coached the North and Broken Hill Juniors for around 10 years from 1992.
“The focus was not really to win junior premierships, but rather develop the kids into the best footballers they can be,” David said. “The talent coming through those years was unbelievable.”
A serious workplace injury spelt the end of David’s playing career in 1998 at 226 games. Although it was a bitter blow, it started a new chapter in his life, working with NSW/AFL alongside Robert Hickey.
That was a position he held for four years, before the lure of coaching in the BHAFL became too strong to resist.
A stint at North Broken Hill as head coach beckoned. David would coach there in a three-year stint.
Three-year coaching periods would become a regular pattern in David Ruddock’s coaching career. “I only really coach two or three years at a time. Two years is good, three years if you have won one [a premiership] is okay.
After that they [the players] start to get sick of your voice and the coach even starts to dislike some players, so it is good to take a break then.”
His first season in the top job at North would bring his first premiership. It would not be his last, but it would be the last of his first tenure at Northies.
After the Bulldogs, he moved on to coach the Murray-Mallee combined side. He coached the side for – you guessed it – three years before being appointed assistant coach with the South Australian state team.
“I was fortunate enough to coach the team (Murray-Mallee) for three years, before landing the state assistant coaching role with South Australia.”
Following his state team adventures he returned to North for a two-year stint, winning his second premiership flag in 2011.
Following that came a term coaching in the Miners Cup matches between Broken Hill and Roxby Downs.
Arduous work from some local movers and shakers in football saw the games played at Football Park, and later Adelaide Oval as AFL curtain raisers.
“It was a great time for Broken Hill football and to coach in this game for nine years was a real honour,” David told the Barrier Truth.
A third two-year spell at Northies beckoned. And with that third spell came a third premiership. But 2016 was a hard-fought flag, and it signalled the end of his 20-plus year association with North Broken Hill Football Club.
“I am grateful for the backing and support I received during my time at North and for that, I thank them all.”
It was a couple of years before the coaching bug hit again.
“It was midway through the 2018 season when Chris Jones and I discussed the idea of coaching West in 2019.” David said.
The Mighty Robins had been going through an extended lean period and would end the 2018 season with just a solitary victory, finishing the season dead last.
After a long chat with the West board at the end of that season, David Ruddock and Chris Jones were installed as the new head coaches at West Football Club.
Certainly 2019 was a season of growth for everyone at West Football Club. A losing Preliminary Final was a sign of brighter days ahead for the club under Ruddock and Jones.
“It was one we considered fairly successful, despite losing the preliminary final,” David says.
In a cruel blow to both David, Chris, and their developing squad, the following two seasons were abandoned.
The 2020 season was off completely and the 2021 season remained incomplete – both shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I strongly believe that one of those abandoned seasons would have seen West win a drought breaking flag,” David says.
A huge turn-over of playing staff has seen 2022 become a bit of a reset year at the club.
Some new recruits fell to early season injuries that have prevented them from having any real impact, and the team lost about 15 players from last season. Despite recording just three wins this season so far, David can see good things brewing at West.
“Flashes of great football and unquestionable effort,” were the words he chose when we asked him to describe the 2022 season.
David greatly enjoyed his time at West Footy Club, but at 58 years of age he feels it is time to step away from the game he loves. One of the big reasons he wants to leave now is it will give him more opportunity to spend time with his son, who lives on the Gold Coast.
But before he heads out the door at West, and heads for the beaches of the Gold Coast, David made a point of wanting to thank a number of people that helped make his time at the Mighty Robins so enjoyable.
“I would like to thank Sprigger and the West past Players Committee for helping get the idea [of him coaching West alongside Chris Jones] off the ground.
Big thanks to my co-coach Chris Jones, he has a big coaching career ahead of him, should he choose to go down that path.
Head trainer Krista Sutton is a brilliant person, Karen Gosling and Andrew Gosling are just fantastic people who made everything easier,” he told, before going on to make special mention of some of the Presidents he coached under “I’d like to thank Jamahl Carr, Wincen Guy and Grant Smith as well.
They were supportive presidents from day one. Finally, I have to thank the players and supporters who have been a massive help along the way.”
West’s final round clash will be fittingly against David’s former club, North. It will signal the end of an era as a Broken Hill football legend steps away from the game for good.