Collingwood are back on top. Not on the ladder – but back to the top of the membership table released by the AFL.
The timing of this could not be better for Nathan Buckley with the release of the 2017 membership numbers mandating the direction of the Collingwood Football club under Eddie McGuire.
With the members supporting the administration, McGuire will be able to leverage the result for a Buckley extension of a minimum of two years.
Meanwhile, the Collingwood 2017 season draws to an inevitable closure and another failed campaign, the behind the scenes review continues including a football department review overseen by the experienced Geoff Walsh.
The days, perhaps weeks following the final round game against Melbourne will see heightened focus as even while the 2017 finals combatants are in battle at the serious end of the season, the Pies will make news.
Amidst the hysteria around Buckley, Eddie McGuire, Gary Pert and company, and even the recent sacking of Suns coach Rodney Eade, the club has stood firm, confirming that Buckley will indeed see out his current contract to the end of the 2017 season.
Any news story on the Pies sells papers, generates advertising revenue too with clickbait digital articles on the Pies no doubt well accepted by eager editors looking to increase the digital metrics and subsequently increase advertising revenue for their media organisations.
Love or hate the Pies, most would have to agree the club has stood firm and presented a united front against this mass media hysteria and Buckley is still there pushing his young team, measured, calculated and calm in every performance.
The fact is Buckley won’t be “sacked” regardless. His current contract will either be renewed or it won’t. He will not be a sacked coach whatever happens.
What will happen? The club will be looking into all facets of the football department including fitness staff, psych, assistant coaches and the head coach.
Will they judge Buckley on his performance from 2012-2016 or purely look at 2017 is the question. Geoff Walsh is an experienced operator and I believe he will purely focus on the here and now, 2017.
Why? Well, whatever happened in the past, Buckley and his emerging list are all different to 2012-2016. Thoughts heading back to the succession plan are wasted. Thoughts about 2014 -2016 injuries are wasted.
What is done is done and the fact is the club achieved a premiership in the midst of the succession plan.
To 2017, on the percentage ladder, which takes away the close wins and losses element out of the game the Pies sit 10th with a likely loss coming up against the Demons.
Injuries have been less of an excuse this year though they have still had their share. The general consensus is final eight was the target with perhaps one final win.
Ultimately, 2017 then is a failure – though not as drastic as the hysteria suggests.
Who has improved under Buckley this year? Jeremy Howe, Will Hoskin-Elliott, Brodie Grundy, Adam Treloar, Taylor Adams, Jordan De Goey, Tom Phillips, Josh Thomas, Brayden Maynard. That’s a fair crop of players showing improvement under the current coach.
Whether it is Buckley or a new coach in 2018, the list is not as bad as some make out with one of the best midfields in the game in Daniel Wells (if he can stay fit), Treloar, Scott Pendlebury, Adams, and Steele Sidebottom.
Grundy is an important signing to come as one of the best young rucks in the competition. Ben Reid is showing signs he can play forward, particularly if he trains for it pre-season.
No doubt Jake Lever will be a priority recruit but it won’t be easy to get him. Lynden Dunn has been a surprise and low-cost success down back as he curtails the jumping forwards of the competition and has a booming kick to clear the zones.
Who has potential for rapid improvement based on what we have seen at senior level in 2018? De Goey, Maynard (could become a Hodge style Mid/back), Darcy Moore, Matthew Scharenberg, Tom Langdon, James Aish, Callum Brown, potentially Tom Phillips and Josh Smith.
The other key decision for the Pies at the end of the year is if Buckley is not the man than who? Do they go down the assistant coach path?
Paul Roos is probably not the answer, he seems pretty comfortable in his media career. Brad Scott, though tied to North would be a good fit. He has coached at the Pies before and was highly thought of in his time at the Holden Centre.
One thing is clear, the club does not pay heed to the media hysteria and will look at all available candidates for the next coaching contract, including Nathan Buckley.
There may well be some sort of major surprise to all in the final conclusions to the drama. Who knows, maybe a radical co-coaching arrangement or even Mick Malthouse back into the fold in the original position he walked away from in 2012 as Director of Coaching with Nathan reappointed under him.
I believe the membership figures just released have now mandated a contract extension for Buckley. Expect the announcement shortly after the final game.