For new Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley, the start of the AFL season is no different than it was as a player – he finds it just as exciting and nerve-wracking.
“The first game of every year for me was really anxious to prove the work that you’d done through the pre-season was enough,” Buckley said ahead of his home-and-away season coaching debut against Hawthorn on Friday night.
“Six months is a long time between the end of one season and the start of the next.
“People can sneak up on you, and teams can sneak up on you.
“There is a little bit of the unknown in round one, which is pretty exciting, and a not dissimilar feeling from a coach to a player.”
Mick Malthouse’s successor begins his long-awaited career as an AFL head coach facing a major test of his bona fides at the MCG.
The pumped-up Hawks have spoken of their motivation for this season after the Magpies ended their 2011 with a three-point preliminary final win in a match which was Hawthorn’s for the taking.
Buckley also will lead a team minus eight regular Magpies through injury and unavailability – skipper Nick Maxwell the latest to succumb to an ankle injury to end a less-than-ideal pre-season preparation.
But Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson says he expects the Magpies to approach their football under Buckley with similar tactics to those Malthouse used so successfully last season.
And Clarkson refused to accept despite a weakened Collingwood, the Hawks had any advantage against a club which has beaten them in three of their last four encounters.
“We’re anticipating that even if they don’t pick some of their more seasoned players, what they’re going to do is pick 22 fit players,” Clarkson said on Thursday.
“It’s not like Collingwood are going in with an underdone side.
“We know what to expect from Collingwood. They’ve been a great side for the last two to three years in particular, so we’re expecting nothing less than their best performance.”
Buckley will blood several inexperienced players on Friday night.
Midfielder Paul Seedsman and first-year players Peter Yagmoor and Jackson Paine have been named to make their AFL debut against the Hawks.
And fellow Magpies Lachlan Keeffe, Luke Rounds and Ben Sinclair have all been selected despite only playing a handful of games.
“We’ve got a couple of young players that have played particularly well through the pre-season … you’ll see a couple of those guys pop up,” Buckley said.