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Opinion

Sorry Nathan Buckley, but it's over

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Expert
4th May, 2021
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Nathan Buckley can’t, and surely won’t, be coach of Collingwood next year. The only question should be how long into this season does the club put an end to his reign.

The consensus of several media types is that Buckley should be offered a contract extension because he is proven as a good coach and is likely to be better than whoever his replacement will be.

There’s no doubt that Buckley is an intelligent observer and communicator about football. He speaks as eloquently as any coach in the caper. His playing record and life in the game speaks to his credentials as a football man.

But, really, so what. These things don’t guarantee you an unprecedented length of time in the senior chair without delivering success. And not just a lack of success, but a vast history of regression.

At the end of this season, Collingwood will have gone backwards in nine of the ten years Buckley has been in charge. Nine out of ten!

And it’s not as if he hasn’t had talent at his disposal.

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Scott Pendlebury is in any conversation about the greatest players at the club. Dane Swan isn’t far behind. Travis Cloke was a top-ten player in the league under Buckley. Brodie Grundy is a generational ruckman. Dayne Beams, Heritier Lumumba, Ben Reid, Taylor Adams, Steele Sidebottom are or were All Australian quality. Plus a host of very good players were in support along the way.

Scott Pendlebury of the Magpies celebrates a win

Scott Pendlebury (Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

And then we get to Darcy Moore.

It was a good coaching move to try Moore forward, as Buckley did against West Coast in Round 5, and it worked for a while too. He kicked a goal in the first term, presented well and took marks, and the Pies took a lead into quarter time.

But when the Eagles peeled off 11 of the next 12 goals through the second and third quarters, with ten of them to tall forwards, Moore had to go back.

When Gold Coast’s Josh Corbett, Ben King and Chris Burgess combined for 37 touches, 23 marks and seven goals on the weekend, in a game the Suns won by 24 points, Moore had to go back. He had to go back.

He is arguably the best key defender in the game, and is more than capable of preventing several of those marks and goals. Instead, he was up the other end touching the footy once a quarter.

It all just speaks to the current disarray under Buckley, which we explored last week.

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As for the future, Collingwood only has one player on their list that has a Rising Star nomination in the last four years. It would have been three if not for the ruthless culling of Tom Phillips and Jayden Stephenson. Oops.

Buckley has been in charge for 212 matches, which places him fourth on the list of coaches to have lengthy tenure without delivering a flag. None of those above him started coaching this century.

Ted Whitten coached Footscray for 228 games, but in two separate stints (1957-66 and 1969-71).

Neale Daniher led Melbourne for 223 matches from 1998-2007. And while the Demons were renowned for their yo-yo performances under him, at least they improved in five different seasons under ‘The Reverend’.

Wally Carter has several stints at North Melbourne in the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s, for 220 games. It was a different time.

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So if Buckley is not just extended, but even allowed to coach out the year, he will be the longest serving continuous senior coach without a premiership in the history of the game. And only one grand final in that time too.

Sorry, but you just don’t get to keep going. Common sense says it. 125 years of football says it. The fact the Pies are a rabble says it.

It’s over. All that’s left now is when the guillotine will come down.