What a win! What a bloody win. You see these emotional performances time and time again, and I don’t care what anyone says, we are all human and emotion can cause great spikes and dips in output.
Plenty will try to tell you it doesn’t matter, that they are professional and if they can’t get up to play each week that they aren’t right for the job.
But while good players find a way to consistently perform through emotional ups and downs, they are human: the proof is in the pudding.
What can most commonly be seen as a result of an emotional game is effort and courage – two things I would say the Pies have not been completely devoid of.
Individually we have seen plenty of effort and courage this year, and at times as a team we have displayed both as well. But not for four quarters have we seen that level.
Led by our veterans, Collingwood put up an effort for the ages. Scott Pendlebury was at his all-time best and, so you ask, where did he play? Well, you wouldn’t bloody believe it, in the middle! For the entire match, in the middle. Leave him there until he dies. I don’t know how many times I’ve said it, the bloke is a midfielder.
Steele Sidebottom started slow but came to the fore when it mattered. Fittingly, both these champions kicked goals.
Brayden Maynard had an all-time game – best I can remember. His output was greatest affected by the emotion of the day given his year and admitted struggles with getting up and about. I hope this gives him the fire in the belly because when he plays like that, it must be hard for the blokes around him not to get up.
But the biggest factor in the victory was actually a fundamental change in our way of playing. All year, Pies fans lamented our ball movement, about long kicks down the line out of half back, and high balls to stationary players in the forward 50.
Last week I wrote that during practice they should show footage of Jamie Elliot leading over and over against the Crows. I like to think that’s exactly what happened, A Clockwork Orange-style.
All of the sudden we were brave out of defence, we kicked and hand balled into the corridor. We led into space and honoured those Leeds. We eclipsed our average marks in less than a half as a result.
Now, is that part of an emotional response by the players or is that a coaching decision? Because either the players completely ignored Nathan Buckley’s direction in his last game, something I highly doubt, or Buckley’s departure had an emotional response to the game.
Did the coach finally let the shackles of monotony off? In his last game, did he play his role more courageously? Maybe this is a sign he should still be there, because he can be better.
I sit firmly on the side of we made the right call in starting anew. Humans are emotional but also are creatures of habit, and Buckley’s habit as a coach is well known and outdated. His leadership is one of intensity in all aspects.
I believe in his ability to coach and get a buy-in based on his style. I also believe it is a style that is not sustainable over long periods, that people around him will feel a sense of relief and freedom now he is gone.
Just like emotional responses are inevitable so are returning to habits.
Buckley got his shot as a player and a coach, and by God did he get close. He was amazing at times and for that I thank him. He is a champion of our game, a true force of will. I am content with the decision to let him go after we played so well in his last game.
I’m thankful Bucks got his rightful send off. I’m thankful that his final moment at Collingwood is a defiant victory. I’m hopeful that his final coaching acts may have lit some fire in the players’ bellies, that breaking those shackles of monotony reminded them that football is fun and exciting.
It’s time to move on, Pies fans. Thanks for a final moment of magic, Bucks.