The experience of coaching at six previous AFL clubs and in a variety of roles has given Alan Richardson one of the caper's most solid CVs. But his is a philosophy also moulded in no small way by his experiences - and misfortune - as an AFL player.

Richardson, 48, who played 114 games with Collingwood over 10 seasons from 1987-96, played 18 games, including three finals in the Pies' famous premiership of 1990. But he missed the one that mattered most, the grand final, after breaking a collarbone in the second semi-final.

Despite a courageous attempt to prove his fitness for his game, a searching fitness test from coach Leigh Matthews found him out, and his dream was shattered.

It was a moment that has helped shape his dealings with the players he has overseen, from his days with East Burwood.

''It is very much a motivator when it comes to people that aren't getting the best out of themselves, and are treading water when they clearly have more in them,'' he told me in an interview in 2009.

''No doubt I would probably at times bore the players I work with to death with it … but I am really strong on team and team success, even though for a big part of my coaching career, I've been focused on individual development.''

And indeed, his reputation as a coach and developer of individual talent among AFL clubs is lofty. The setting up of the Collingwood academy in 2006 was a pivotal moment not only in Richardson's football career, but his life.

''It actually coincided with the death of my father,'' he says. ''Some things happen in your life that just give you a massive reality jolt, or perspective, and it was probably one of those.''

The player he worked with most closely at Collingwood was the oldest on the list, then 34-year-old full-back Shane Wakelin, now St Kilda's general manager of commercial operations.

''He was the coach I sounded out the most for advice on all parts of my game,'' Wakelin said. ''He observes the game very technically, whether it's with kicking or marking or how players position themselves in a marking contest. His observational skills, both of game situations, as well as individual flaws and strengths, are as good as anyone I've seen.''

Well aware of his own limitations as a player, Richardson can still laugh about the backhanded compliment plastered on the Magpie banner the day he played his 100th AFL match: ''Well done Richo on 100 dogged games''.

''I understand exactly where I was as a player, and I'm really proud of my achievement given I probably didn't have quite as much natural talent as some,'' he said in 2009.

''But also in some ways I think that helps me relate to a greater percentage of most lists. Yes, there are superstars, but most players need a fair bit of work and a fair bit of understanding to be as good as they can, and perhaps the fact it took me so long and that I had to fight tooth and nail to be a regular member of a team probably helps too.''