Brownlow Medallist Adam Cooney says former coach Brendan McCartney showed a lack of empathy towards his personal situation that eventually led to his departure.
Cooney was in the best shape of his career heading into 2014, but suffered a hamstring against Collingwood at Etihad Stadium that ultimately derailed his season.
At the end of a tough campaign for the Bulldogs, where the club finished in 14th position, the 2008 Brownlow Medallist recalled the “open” and “honest” meeting he had with McCartney and how he basically implored him to remain on the list.
“It all came to an end in 2014,” Cooney told Peter Donegan on This is Your Sporting Life for Tobin Brothers - celebrating lives.
“My exit meeting after the season, generally you have your coaches in there, you talk about your positives and negatives, and at the end of my meeting all the coaches walked out and it was Brendan McCartney, Justin Cordy - who was the head of fitness, and Graham Lowe - who was the head of footy.
“I thought, this isn’t good.
“I had a year to run on my contract and basically just talked about the back-end of my year and the inconsistencies, not only of my year, but everyone at the Dogs at that stage.
“In 2014 - early on in the season - I changed everything about my diet, I was as lean as I’ve ever been, so I was doing everything that I possible could to get myself right.
“At that stage I was 82kg, eight kilos lighter than I was at my heaviest. Then I got injured; I did my hamstring and I got disheartened that I did everything I possibly could and I still got injured.
“I really lost motivation towards the back-end of the season.
“The meeting with Brendan McCartney was pretty open and honest, I explained to him what happened and why I wasn’t playing well towards the back-end of 2014 and how I lost motivation.
“I had a year to run on my contract and they were either going to look to trade me or I would be playing VFL next year.
“He (McCartney) wanted me to call him after the meeting and plead my case as to why I should stay at the football club.
“That didn’t sit very well with me. He didn’t understand what I was going through as a player and how long I had played in pain.”
Cooney revealed just how toxic the environment was at the Whitten Oval that season, saying there were a group of young players who didn’t want to attend club training sessions run by McCartney and the discontent amongst the senior group towards him.
“I didn’t realise how bad it was or how bad the club was at that stage until probably mid-way through 2014,” he added.
“It wasn’t just my relationship with Brendan McCartney, I was a senior figure and I was in the leadership group at that stage, but it got to a point where mid-way through 2014, I think the players realised he wasn’t the right man for the job.
“I was pretty close with a lot of the younger players and there was a lot going on at the club at that stage.
“My relationship with him was fractured because he just didn’t click with the senior players.
“His strengths were teaching the contested ball part of the game and he was really good with the younger players, but for some reason he just didn’t connect with the senior players in the group.
“By the end, he didn’t connect with the younger players.
“There were times at the club where younger players didn’t want to come to training and they were confining us and talking about their relationship and everything that was going on at the football club.
“I know at one stage there was a group of parents who sat down with Simon Garlick and the board to express their concerns about what was happening, because their kids were saying they didn’t want to go to training.
“That’s where the warning lights were flashing loud and clear for me.”
McCartney resigned at the end of the tumultuous 2014 season, while Cooney was traded to Essendon.
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Listen to Adam Cooney's chat on This is Your Sporting Life with Peter Donegan in the player below, thanks to Tobin Brothers: