Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge didn't give too much away in the post-match press conference after his team's gritty upset win over Hawthorn last weekend. Wearing black pants and a tightly-fitted team polo shirt that revealed the physique of a former footballer's frame, 'Bevo' cut a relaxed figure for the first time this season.
Several journalists tried and failed to probe Beveridge about any frailties in his team's approach as the Bulldogs prepare for tonight's grand final qualifier against Greater Western Sydney. Beveridge simply pushed out his chest and praised his players: "There hasn't been a negative vibe at any point in the year, no matter what they have been up against," he said.
The story of Luke Beveridge as an AFL legend is only part of his already incredible life. Beveridge grew up across the road from the Yarra Yarra Golf Club in Melbourne's south-east. His maternal grandfather originates from the Greek island of Samos. His mother, Rosa, was a talented diver who narrowly missed Olympic selection. His father, John, was a footballing guru that was a recruitment officer for St Kilda.
As a player, Beveridge dabbled as a rover and a forward. Of a typically Greek stature at 173cm, he was by no means the biggest player on the field, nor was he the strongest. He was, however, of supreme footballing bloodlines, with his grandfather, Jack Beveridge, winning four consecutive premierships with Collingwood between 1927 and 1930.
Beveridge kicked off his playing career with Melbourne in 1989 and played 42 games in four seasons. He was then traded to Footscray and managed 31 games in three seasons, before being traded to St Kilda, where his father was a recruitment officer for the club. Beveridge played 45 games for the Saints in four seasons and retired at the end of the 1999 season.
There are several layers to Beveridge. Young at heart, he loves to surf, with Bells Beach his staple. However, he was a public servant for nearly twenty years in various government departments, including the Australian Tax Office's intelligence unit and AUSTRAC, where he helped regulate money laundering, terrorism finance and the occasional drug bust.
However, it is his role as coach that is now defining the legend of Luke Beveridge, initially because he had no desire to be a coach. He coached amateur club St Bede's to three straight flags, had a stint at Collingwood, before helping Alastair Clarkson to three straight grand finals at Hawthorn between 2012 and 2014. It seems ironic that Beveridge's Dogs eliminated Clarkson's Hawks last week. Even more ironic is that Clarkson's other assistant in that time was Leon Cameron, who will coach Greater Western Sydney against Beveridge in tonight's game.
To some surprise, Beveridge was named as Bulldogs coach for 2015 after Brendan McCartney resigned. No-one gave Beveridge and his young pups the chance, with the Dogs tipped for the wooden spoon, especially after the loss of several key figures including McCartney, CEO Simon Garlick, club captain Ryan Griffen and former Brownlow Medallist Adam Cooney. It got even worse when son-of-a-gun Tom Liberatore was ruled out of the season with a knee injury.
Beveridge held them all together, leading the Dogs to sixth place on the ladder and their first finals series since 2010. Despite being eliminated by the Adelaide Crows in the first week of the finals, Beveridge was named the AFL Coaches Association coach of the year, an accolade no-one could dispute.
It looked even tougher in 2016 for Beveridge and the Dogs when club captain and fan favourite Robert Murphy went down with a season-ending knee injury in round 3. The club was rapidly turning into a hospital ward and, after a loss against St Kilda, the Bulldogs change room was like a war-zone. At one end, Mitch Wallis was screaming in pain with a badly broken leg, surrounded by his family. At the other end stood Jack Redpath, quietly awaiting the doctor's news that he would need a third knee reconstruction. In the middle was Beveridge, a pillar of stoicism that has proved to be the right medicine for the injury-riddled Dogs, leading them to the brink of the club's first Grand Final since 1961.
Now, Beveridge is freshly 46 and is a father of two boys. Beveridge's coaching mantra is simple: be patient, be understanding and, importantly, be human.
"To be honest, I just generally love people. I really do," Beveridge told the Herald Sun.
"I do see the young five-year-old kid in all our players who wanted to be an AFL player. Here is a part of them that is living their dream and I'm trying to help them continue on with it.
"They are obviously someone's sons and as a father you have a responsibility."