Neil Craig

Neil Passmore Craig (born 11 January 1956) is an Australian coach and former Australian rules footballer. He has worked as a fitness adviser, coach of the Adelaide Football Club, a caretaker coach of the Melbourne Football Club, the former General of Performance at the Essendon Football Club, as well as the Director of Coaching at the Carlton Football Club.

Neil Craig
Craig in March 2017
Personal information
Full name Neil Passmore Craig
Date of birth (1956-01-11) 11 January 1956
Draft No. 2, 1981 interstate draft
Playing career1
Years Club Games (Goals)
19731979 Norwood 126
19801986 Sturt 134
19871990 North Adelaide 61
Coaching career3
Years Club Games (W–L–D)
20042011 Adelaide 166 (92–74–0)
2013 Melbourne 011 0(1–10–0)
Total 177 (93–84–0)
1 Playing statistics correct to the end of 1990.
3 Coaching statistics correct as of 2013.
Career highlights

Since 2017 he has been high performance manager for the England rugby union team, working with head coach Eddie Jones.

Playing career

Craig played a total of 319 games (and kicked 220 goals) in the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) as well as 11 State of Origin matches for South Australia.

He played 126 games for the Norwood Football Club, debuting as a 17-year-old in 1973. He was a part of their premiership sides in 1975 and 1978, before leaving the club after the 1979 season.[1]

Craig played 134 games for Sturt (captaining the side in 1985 and 1986) between 1980 and 1986 and was also captain of South Australia in 1984.

He moved to North Adelaide, where he finished his career, playing 61 games between 1987 and 1990. At one stage of his career, Craig was pursued by Footscray, a Victorian team in the Victorian Football League (VFL), but declined the offer as he preferred to stay in South Australia.[2] At that time there was a great rivalry between the VFL and SANFL and both competitions considered themselves the best in Australia.

Post-playing career

In 1991, Craig became the coach of Norwood, a position he held until 1995. In 2002, he was inducted into the South Australian Football Hall of Fame.[3]

Fitness advising

Craig hails from a fitness background and holds a sports science degree.[4]

He has worked with the Australian cycling team at the Olympic Games and with the South Australian Institute of Sport, as a senior sports scientist.[5] He has worked under cycling legend Charlie Walsh at the Australian Cycling Federation (where he was Sports science co-ordinator)[6] and also recruited Walsh as part of the Crows' AFL coaching panel.[7]


In 1997, Craig took up the position of fitness adviser with the Adelaide Crows. He is credited with helping devise the fitness regime that led the Crows to back-to-back premierships in 1997 and 1998 in which players were trained harder mid-season in order to reach peak fitness during finals matches.[8]

Craig left the club in 1999 to help the Australian Olympic cycling team prepare for the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games but returned in 2001 to be an assistant coach under Gary Ayres. In late 2001 Craig was the favourite for the West Coast Eagles coaching job in 2002 but dropped out of the running. He took over the senior coaching position at the Crows in 2004 as caretaker when Ayres left the club after Round 13. He was then appointed full-time for the 2005 season and immediately led the Crows to their first minor premiership in 2005,[9] and took the team to two successive preliminary finals in his first two years as senior coach (2005 and 2006). Under Craig the Crows reached the finals for five consecutive years but achieved limited success, leaving Craig with a finals' coaching record of three wins and six losses. After a disappointing 2010 and 2011, Craig resigned on 25 July 2011 after a 103-point loss to St Kilda.[10] He left the club as the longest serving coach in the Crows' history.


After his resignation as Adelaide coach, Craig was signed as the Director of Sports Performance at the Melbourne Football Club on 29 September 2011, beginning in the 2012 season. His primary role was mentoring and assisting the players of the club, in particular the younger players, and to mentor and assist the other assistant coaches, including an assistant coach.[11]

Despite the off-season acquisitions of several experienced players, such as Shannon Byrnes, Tom Gillies, Chris Dawes and David Rodan, the Demons underachieved in the first half of 2013 AFL season, managing just 1 win in their first 11 games. As the result of this poor start to the 2013 season, after the Demons' mid-season bye on 17 June 2013, the Demons' head coach, Mark Neeld, was sacked. His sacking came within weeks of the departures of senior Demons' staff members Cameron Schwab and Don McLardy. Subsequently, Craig was appointed as the caretaker coach of the Demons for the remainder of the 2013 season.[12] Craig coached the Demons for 11 games, managing just 1 win, for a winning percentage of just 9%. Craig left the club after the completion of the 2013 season with former Sydney Swans premiership coach Paul Roos taking over the senior coaching role at the end of the season.


On 10 October 2013, Craig was appointed to the newly created role of head of coaching development and strategy at the Essendon Football Club[13] and then on 15 April 2014, he was promoted to the position of General Manager, Performance. In this role Craig oversaw all team performance functions including coaching, development and high performance which meant that the coaching staff reported to him.[14]


On 30 September 2015, Craig was appointed to Brendon Bolton's new coaching panel at Carlton, taking on the role of Director of Coaching, Development and Performance.[15] On 14 August 2017, it was announced that he would retire from his career in the football industry at the end of the 2017 season.[16]

England Rugby Union

From October 2017 Craig worked as "a consultant for highest performance to look how we operate and see how we can improve" with the England rugby union senior team.[17] Areas of focus included leadership, communication and teamwork.[18] Part of his role was also to be a 'critical friend' to head coach Eddie Jones who he had worked with previously.[19] The team reached the final of the 2019 World Cup.

Coaching statistics

 W  Wins  L  Losses  D  Draws  W%  Winning percentage  LP  Ladder position  LT  League teams
Season Team Games W L D W % LP LT
2004* Adelaide 945044.4%1216
2005 Adelaide 25187072.0%116
2006 Adelaide 24177070.8%216
2007 Adelaide 231211052.2%816
2008 Adelaide 231310056.5%516
2009 Adelaide 24159062.5%516
2010 Adelaide 22913040.9%1116
2011 Adelaide 16412025.0%1417
2013* Melbourne 1111009.1%1718
Career totals 177 93 84 0 52.5%

* Caretaker coach


  1. Neil Craig at
  2. Crows' imperfect science, Mark Stevens, 2 September 2006, Herald Sun
  3. Hall of Fame Inductees Including Career Records, SANFL, accessed 8 September 2006.
  4. X-Men Want AFL Pledge | Australian Football Association of North America
  5. Thompson, L., Engineering the World's Fastest Bicycle, Powerhouse Museum, accessed 8 September 2006
  6. Sheactive – Scientific Heart Rate Book (on ZoomInfo)
  7. The Adelaide Crows Neil for their coach Craig :: ABC Adelaide
  8. Craig still coach of the year? [Archive] – Injury Update Forum
  9. Duffield, Mark (28 August 2005). "Report spoils Adelaide joy". The Sunday Age.
  10. "Neil Craig quits as Adelaide Crows coach". The Sydney Morning Herald. 25 July 2011. Retrieved 25 July 2011.
  11. Denham, Greg (30 September 2011). "Demons win the services of Craig". The Australian.
  12. "Former Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett blasts AFL for helping to overhaul Melbourne's board". Herald Sun. 25 June 2013. Retrieved 2 July 2013.
  13. "Mark Thompson named Essendon coach as Bombers confirm James Hird won't return to top job in 2014", Herald Sun, 10 October 2013. Retrieved 11 October 2013.
  14. "Dons announce new football structure". Essendon Football Club. Essendon Football Club. 15 April 2014. Retrieved 15 April 2014.
  15. "Meet Carlton's 2016 coaching panel". 30 September 2015. Retrieved 22 December 2015.
  16. "Neil Craig calls time on his career in football -". Retrieved 17 September 2017.
  20. Neil Craig's coaching profile at AFL Tables
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