Denis Pagan’s record as a career coach speaks for itself. Teams led by Denis have participated in 14 day and five pre-season Grand Finals for 12 Premiership victories. Drawing on his 28 years of coaching experience – including 15 years as a senior AFL coach – Denis can speak with authority on the key ingredients for attaining sustained success, team alignment, leadership, goal setting, developing self belief and overcoming adversity..

His proven coaching philosophies are based upon communication, teaching, people management, leadership and can be readily adopted by both aspiring coaches and business leaders alike.

Denis Pagan - Biography

Career coach. It’s a term that is often applied loosely, but one that sits comfortably alongside the name Denis Pagan. 

Throughout a distinguished coaching career spanning three decades, Denis has forged a reputation as a meticulous planner, an inspirational leader of men and for the relentless pursuit of excellence. Beyond dispute is the indelible mark Denis has left on the game of Australian football. He ranks 16th on the list of most senior VFL/AFL games coached and as a Premiership coach at Under-19, Reserve and Senior AFL level, he is without peer. 

Following a successful playing career which spanned 146 games over 10 seasons at the highest level (120 games with North Melbourne and 26 with South Melbourne) and included State representation and a Grand Final appearance, Denis embarked on what was to prove one of the most enduring and successful of coaching journeys.

As playing coach of Yarraville, he lifted the VFA club to a Grand Final appearance, before returning to North Melbourne; first as a specialist coach, then in guiding the Under-19s to an unparalleled nine consecutive Grand Final appearances and five Premierships from 10 seasons. After the disbandment of the AFL Under-19 competition Denis further enhanced his coaching credentials by winning another flag in his one and only season as Essendon Reserves coach in 1992.          

Appointed senior coach of North Melbourne on the eve of the 1993 season, virtually overnight Denis transformed a club that had seemingly been demoralised by a record defeat in the pre-season competition just days earlier.  He introduced a new game plan, taught the players to believe in themselves, installed a then 21-year-old Wayne Carey as captain and was even instrumental in helping the club secure NZI Insurance as a major sponsor. By season’s end North Melbourne had returned to the September action for the first time in six seasons, while Denis was duly named ‘AFL Coach of the Year’ in his inaugural season.

What followed were seven consecutive Preliminary Finals, three Grand Finals appearances and the ultimate success; Premierships in 1996 and 1999. North Melbourne, or the Kangaroos as they came to be known, earned the moniker of ‘Team of the Nineties’, The Football Record referred to Denis as “the man with the finals touch” and in 2001 he was selected ahead of the legendary Ron Barassi as the club’s Coach of the Century. In a decade at the helm, Denis returned a winning percentage of 61 per cent.

Punitive draft sanctions, financial uncertainty and frequent political instability presented Denis with a myriad of challenges during his five-year tenure as Carlton coach. Through it all he remained steadfastly committed to the playing group and supporters, managed to deliver the Blues two pre-season Premierships and departed the club with his integrity and reputation intact.

Denis’ success in the sporting arena mirrors that of his personal and professional life. Married to Cheryl for 35 years with adult children Shannon and Ryan, prior to his appointment as senior coach of the Kangaroos he had 25 years’ experience in the highly-competitive insurance industry. As an agency manager, he specialised in risk assessment, broker/agent liaison, claim settlement and sales/marketing.

Denis and Cheryl share a passion for the breeding of thoroughbreds, while his contributions to The Age and Sunday Age have proved both insightful and thought-provoking.

As one who is able to draw on the full gamut of experiences from the pressure-cooker environment of the AFL, Denis speaks with authority on the key ingredients for attaining success, leadership, team building, developing self-belief and confidence, overcoming adversity and goal setting. Likewise, his coaching philosophies - based upon communication, teaching, people management and leadership - will prove invaluable to aspiring coaches and business and community leaders alike.

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Denis Pagan – Coaching Record

To maintain a winning 66% success ratio over 28 years of coaching Australian Football teams is remarkable.  Denis Pagan’s record is as follows:

VFA Yarraville Football Club (Playing coach)

Year Wins Losses Draws Total % Position
1979 11 7   18 61 6th
1980 15 5   20 75 2nd
  26 12   38 68%  

1981 Specialist Coach North Melbourne Football Club

VFL North Melbourne Football Club (Under 19 Coach)

Year Wins Losses Draws Total % Position
1982 11 10 1 21 52 6th
1983 20 4   24 83 2nd
1984 21 4   25 84 Premiers
1985 22 3   25 88 2nd
1986 19 4   23 83 2nd
1987 21 1   22 95 Premiers
1988 20 2   22 91 Premiers
1989 20 4   24 83 2nd
1990 19 6   25 76 Premiers
1991 19 6   25 76 Premiers
  192 44   237 81%  

VFL Essendon Football Club (Reserves Coach)

Year Wins Losses Draws Total % Position
1992 22 3   25 88 Premiers

VFL/AFL North Melbourne Football Club (Senior Coach)

Year Wins Losses Draws Total % Position
1993 13 8   21 62 5th
1994 14 10   24 58 3rd
1995 16 9   25 64 3rd
1996 19 6   25 76 Premiers
1997 14 11   25 56 4th
1998 18 7   25 72 2nd
1999 20 5   25 80 Premiers
2000 15 10   25 60 4th
2001 9 13   22 41 13th
2002 12 11   23 52 7th
  150 90   240 63%  

AFL Carlton Football Club

Year Wins Losses Draws Total % Position
2003 4 18   22 18 15th
2004 10 12   22 45 11th
2005 4 17 1 22 19 16th
2006 3 18 1 22 14 16th
2007 4 12   16 25  
  25 77 2 104 25%  

Total Wins

Total Losses

Total Draws

Total Games

Winning %

414 226 3 633 66%

In addition Pagan coached teams have won 4 VFL/AFL Pre Season Premierships and in summary his teams have participated in 14 home and away and 5 pre season grand finals for 12 premierships.

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Denis Pagan - My Career To Date - Part 1

Denis Pagan - My Career To Date - Part 2