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The Roar


'Something I’ll definitely cherish forever': Fly the Pie wins Coach of the Year Award

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Roar Rookie
22nd September, 2022

After taking over the reins as Collingwood Coach at the end of 2021, when the club was languishing in second last position on the ladder, no one expected Craig McRae to take the Pies to a kick away from a Grand Final. Not even Collingwood fans expected it.

12 months ago, the club was in shambles.

Club legend Nathan Buckley had left the coach’s seat, long-term president Eddie McGuire had resigned from his role, there were challenges at board level and the club was lingering at the bottom of the ladder.

It was a daunting task for any experienced coach to take on, let alone a rookie.

So when the man affectionately known as ‘Fly’ was awarded the 2022 AFL Coaches Association Coach of the Year Award for his efforts, no one was surprised. McRae has won fans over, got the players to buy in to his game plan, and endeared himself to the public. And all within his first year.

They are now playing a more direct and daring style of footy. They’ve shown they can match it with the best sides in the competition.

McRae finished as the clear winner, 249 votes ahead of the two men coaching in Saturday’s Grand Final. Sydney’s John Longmire had 201 votes while Geelong’s Chris Scott finished with 174 votes. McRae won the 2012 Development Coach of the Year and the 2019 Assistant Coach of the Year. And now he can add this new accolade to his resume.


McRae’s Collingwood lost by a single point to Sydney in a nail-biting preliminary final last Saturday. They were one accurate kick away from playing in a Grand Final. It’s a remarkable achievement considering where they came from last year and considering it was his first year in charge.

And the humble coach was reflective of what he’s been able to achieve.

“I don’t take it lightly to be voted by your peers, particularly in this field of great candidates is something I’ll definitely cherish forever,” he told AFL 360.

And the modest 48-year-old was full of gratitude to his fellow coaches. He hasn’t lost sight of the support he received from his assistants. He knows it’s a team that works together to achieve success.

“I’m accepting this award on behalf of the whole Collingwood Football Club. You get an individual award in a team sport. It’s nice but clearly, I accept the award on behalf of everybody,” the former Lions premiership player said.

Wherever he’s gone, he’s had success.


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As a player, he starred in three premierships under the great Leigh Matthews at the Brisbane Lions. As an Assistant coach, he’s been part of success at Richmond and Hawthorn under premiership coaches Damien Hardwick and Alastair Clarkson. McRae also had successful stints with the highly successful Melbourne Storm. He also filled the role of Head of Development at Collingwood.

In 2019, he led Richmond’s VFL side to a premiership and won the VFL Coach of the Year as well as the AFL Coaches Association Assistant coach of the year awards.

Not a bad apprenticeship. Now he’s making his mark at Collingwood as the senior coach. And so far he’s doing it with flying colours. The Magpies are flying high again.

The future will tell just how far ‘Fly’ can go.