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Dad's Army: Why the Giants coach is a father figure

Alan McConnell is more than just a coach for the GWS players

"Seize up!" Alan McConnell protests with a broad grin.

Dad's Army: A life in football

04:11 Mar 24. 2020. 5:00 AM

GWS GIANTS coach Alan McConnell talks about his passion for the game and love for his players.

Greater Western Sydney's AFLW coach is posing for the cameras with forward Rebecca Privitelli and defender Louise Stephenson when he's asked to remove the Giants visor hat he often wears on the training track.

When McConnell obliges, Stephenson takes it upon herself to fix his silver "hat hair", as a daughter might do.

GWS Giants head coach Alan McConnell

In turn, McConnell's playful reaction is like that of a father.

It's an instructive interaction, given McConnell is regarded by his players as a father figure.

McConnell, who will turn 63 on March 30, has vast football and life experience, having been a 37-game defender with the Bulldogs from 1980-82, before embarking on a coaching career that included stints as caretaker coach at Fitzroy in both 1995 and 1996, an assistant with Geelong and head football coach at the Australian Institute of Sport before joining the GWS men's coaching panel.

With the Giants recruiting many players from outside New South Wales, the third-year AFLW coach and his partner Susie Tuckwell have hosted the occasional "family" dinner for the Giants players, with McConnell taking charge of the barbecue. 

"We wanted them to feel like they were our family and we were their family," McConnell said. 

"We want you to feel like you belong and we care … 

"To bring 18-year-old women to Sydney (and) to bring 35-year-old women from the other side of the country, on a whim to chase an eight-week dream is a huge responsibility."

Giants captain Alicia Eva, a Melburnian, affectionately describes McConnell as her "Sydney dad". 

"Nothing is about Al – everything is about the club," Eva said. 

"He wears many different hats here and he's really worked on building great relationships and building really strong rapport with the players. 

"That has meant taking time out of his already crazy schedule to go and have coffee with players, to catch up with family (of players) when they're here and to really get to know the girls away from football as well."

McConnell has enjoyed the ride so far and hopes it continues for some time yet as he continually strives to "make a difference" to his players' lives. 

"I'm blessed, to be honest. To be involved in an AFL club at my age is unique, I think," he said. 

"To be as intimately involved as I am is quite special and I'm so grateful because I love what I do. It makes me feel like a young man."