Collingwood’s American ruck-forward Mason Cox has declared he is “100 per cent planning to play next year” in an article on AthletesVoice.
I’m a supporter of my beloved Pies, but I am still unsure about the decision made by the Collingwood board yesterday.
Yes, alternative, I know. Most Magpies you meet will have already formulated an opinion and will argue it vehemently, as they probably have for over a year. It’s the hot Collingwood topic, closely behind the soaring Four’N’Twenty prices and the lack of use that spiritual homeland Victoria Park now gets, receiving only a handful of VFL games a season.
Despite not having a set opinion on the matter, I can still perceive and passionately agree with both sides of the issue. Nathan Buckley has had his chance. He took a premiership-winning team full of young superstars and ruined the meticulous game plan devised by Mick Malthouse. He drove out controversial figures like Heath Shaw, who have gone on to be fantastic leaders and All Australian players.
He even said so himself that he would vacate the hot seat if his team finished outside the eight, which they did – indeed they came a lackadaisical thirteenth.
However, the other 17 clubs would be more than finished with hearing the whines of the one-eyed Pie, as this outcry has rung out over a two or three-year period. Therefore it is suitable to analyse the reasons why Buckley should stay and why the Pies board made the correct decision in extending his contract.
First of all, his lack of experience in the job means that he deserves more time than the extra coach to develop his own individual coaching identity. Six seasons in the job is surely enough, but considering the outstanding tenures had by the leading coaches in the game, including Alastair Clarkson, Luke Beveridge and John Longmire, a little faith can be had in that he may just be beginning to implement his maturing ideas.
People management is a complex beast, and being captain of the largest AFL club fulfils some aspects of it. However, it isn’t the same as coaching – as being the elder and calling all the shots without anyone to look up to.
The Collingwood Football Club is totally professional and has a president who expects nothing but success, meaning that the fans bay for blood when the results go astray. Therefore the two-year contract is generous in itself, as a 2018 without any improvement or any development in Buckley’s coaching technique will result in mutiny in the MCG stands after each harrowing defeat.
For now you can only accept the decision and believe that maybe Bucks can contrast the likes of ex-players in James Hird and Michael Voss by blossoming as a successful coach so immediately after a playing career.
Injuries are always an excuse for struggling teams, yet the recruitment drive led by some vigorous scouts may also diminish the quality of troops provided to a senior coach. In the competitive environment of draft camps, combines and sessions, the senior recruitment officer should be just as pressured as the senior coach due to the importance of deft trades and calculated draft picks.
The Pies have been ravaged over the past few years, as the faulty muscles of Ben Reid and the constant breakdowns suffered by a plethora of top-line draft picks provide structural problems in the backbone of a line-up.
Also, the money gifted to trades in Jesse White, Chris Mayne, Levi Greenwood, Daniel Wells, Lynden Dunn and Travis Varcoe have varied. White and Mayne have played poorly in the VFL, while the latter four have provided bursts of brilliance when fit but haven’t had the authoritative presence that being senior trades demand. With White retired and out of the building and with Mayne surely not far behind, cash can be directed elsewhere.
Jeremy Howe and Will Hoskin-Elliott, as well as Marcus Adams and Adam Treloar, outline the potential of positive draft picks, harking back to the 2010-11 days where the names of Darren Jolly, Luke Ball, Andrew Krakouer and Chris Tarrant were acquired in shrewd moves that granted them premiership opportunities. Therefore the recruitment is pivotal for Collingwood in 2018.
Can they find a forward who pushes Mason Cox into the VFL permanently? Will they stop going for dashing midfielders and focus on the key position players, such as the tantalising Jake Lever? These are critical for the longevity of Buckley’s stay.
Lastly, if Buckley was to have been moved on, who would’ve replaced him? Ross Lyon would have been a disaster, diminishing further the ball movement of a team that already has reached stagnant in certain matches, while being useless in improving the functionality of a youthful forward line. Brad Scott equally so, as his Kangaroos lament at the foot of the ladder with a pimple-popping team that have no experienced influence on the field.
Paul Roos was bandied about, but his clean-up project at Melbourne appears to have finished him off, outweighing the strong relationship with retiring CEO Gary Pert. Therefore how can you remove a coach who has no prominent replacement? With the people available, only the luring of an experienced assistant coach in the likes of Stuart Dew would provide a worthy replacement for Bucks.
I still remain uncertain about whether Bucks staying is a good choice. His coaching hasn’t been to the standard required by devoted Magpie supporters, yet possible growth still loosely hangs on him like an oversized shirt. He has gone against his word from pre-season and continued to desolate the talent and kicking ability of the team.
Yet, at the end of the day, if there is no one worthy to replace him, why not stand by a favourite son and give him one last chance to develop before a worthier option pops up? At least it’ll keep Eddie’s reputation in check if it comes to marvellous fruition.