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Revisiting the 2002 Norm Smith Medal: Nathan Buckley

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Roar Guru
30th August, 2020

In 2002, Nathan Buckley became the third player to win a Norm Smith Medal in a losing grand final, as he single handily kept his young Collingwood side in the match for four quarters against the rampant Brisbane Lions.

Maurice Rioli in 1982 and Gary Ablett Sr in 1989 were the only two players to accomplish the feat before Buckley.

Going into the match, the Pies side averaged just 67 games of AFL experience, in comparison to the Brisbane side who averaged 219.

The Lions were filled with now AFL legends across every line, going into the match with three Brownlow Medallists, with Simon Black winning during the week to add the already crowned Michael Voss and Jason Akermanis.

Due to these stars, the Magpies midfield was forced to try contain the Lions outfit rather than attack themselves – this left Buckley to do majority of the lifting in the engine room.

The wet and blustery conditions suited the Lions who were led by hard-nosed skipper, Voss – who many believe was robbed of the medal after collecting 28 disposals and a goal.

But by being the only player to reach more than 21 disposals for his side, Buckley was the sole reason the Pies were within two kicks in the final moments of the day.

Buckley – who was famously traded from the Bears in the early stages of his career, went head-to-head with Voss and fought hard all day.


Especially in the third term, when the game, which had only had eight goals between both sides – begun to open up.

When Lockyer took the intercept mark from the kick-in and dished off to a moving Nathan Buckley who launched from 55 to put the Maggies in front with 12 minutes gone in the third term, many Collingwood fans would have felt he was on the cusp of conquering the Goliath that was the Brisbane Lions side.

In the final term, there was over 20 boundary throw ins where Buckley fought his heart out, but he just didn’t have the support around him to get the job done as six Magpies players had less than ten disposals.

The Brisbane unit proved to be too strong across every line when Akermanis snapped his famous match-sealing major with a touch under five minutes remaining in the match, as the Lions secured back-to-back premierships in the 10.15 (75) to 9.12 (66) win.

Buckley created history in his performance, joining an accomplished yet unwanted club by winning the Norm Smith Medal in the loss.

In addition to the day filled with bad luck for the Pies champion, Buckley and his Magpies became the first side since 1990 to win the third term of the grand final, but not the premiership.


The star midfielder was the only player on the ground to collect 30 disposals with his 32 possessions, he also booted that fantastic goal, laid five tackles and also led the ground for clearances with eight.