Behind Bucks’ desire to be the best

Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley. Picture: collingwoodfc.com.au

Before Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley was winning accolades at AFL level with the Magpies, he was plying his trade with Port Adelaide in the SANFL.

Yet, his former teammate and ex-Port premiership captain Tim Ginever said his desire to be the best at anything he could be was well on show during his time at Alberton Oval.

“I’ve got that many stories about the kid, he was fantastic,” Ginever told The Inner Sanctum.

“He came up through the under 19s and reserves in 1991 and played the last six games in the A grade.

“We knew he had some power about him, was fast and had a very long kick.

“There wasn’t probably a less self-aware bloke you could ever meet, he had no idea what he was saying could be perceived by the more fragile people as cocky, arrogant, disrespectful, but for us, the older blokes who had played in a few flags, it was quite amusing and we would play to it and tease it along,”

“We had a great time, and we still catch up when Collingwood play here and if we play them in Melbourne.

“His 1992 year was phenomenal.”

However, it was Port’s final game in 1991 which set Buckley’s determination and hunger up for years to come.

“That year in 1991, he got beaten on the wing in an elimination final and we got smashed,” Ginever said.

“He played a guy who had come down from Brisbane the year before and he was quite physically built, he gave Bucks a toweling and Bucks says he knew then he wasn’t strong enough physically or fit enough to play AFL, and he thought he’s going to do something about it and his pre-season was phenomenal.

“The thing about Bucks, whatever he did, he wanted to be the best at it.

“He would drive himself and drive himself until he was.

“His work ethic was second to none and as a bloke he has a great sense of humour, and at times he would say ridiculous things and we would take the absolute mickey out of him and he’d laugh along with it and have a great time with it.”

But, it wasn’t just limited to the field, with a simple game of darts against teammates which Ginever described as “the desire to be the best”.

“Once we were playing darts and we’d either have table tennis or darts or something to lighten the mood in the change rooms after training,” he said.

“You spend six days of the week at footy and all working jobs, it’s a big commitment and you’d have to lighten it up and Jack (Cahill) was very good at that.

“In 1992, we had darts and he walked out of the gym one day and he looked at us playing and he said ‘what’s that?’ and the boys said ‘it’s darts, don’t worry about it, you won’t be any good at it’.

“He said ‘nah, nah, what’s that?’, because next to it was a scoreboard being kept for what we called a ‘Shanghai’, which was a double 20, triple 20, single 20, which is not easy with three darts.

Nathan Buckley in Port Adelaide black and white. Picture: portadelaidefc.com.au

“The boys started marking when they got one, so there was a bit of a scoreboard going, some of us had four, five, six.

“So, he wanted a go, so they gave him the darts and of course he sprayed them everywhere and ‘Rizza’ (Paul Rizonico) said ‘oh my god, we’ve got the human sprinkler here’, and he teased him.

“We laughed and laughed and said that’ll teach you Bucks, you’re no good at darts, you’re only good at footy, and he got the shits up and he wasn’t happy.

“So, over the next few weeks, he kept playing and playing and started to get a bit better and get some Shanghais and he started to score.

“One day I walked in and he was about five in front of everyone else as far as Shanghais go, and I’d injured my ankle during the season and thought I’d go and get some treatment during the day from the head trainer.

“I walked into the club at 2.30 and I looked up and bloody Bucks is throwing darts at the darts board.

“I said to him ‘what are you doing?’ and he said ‘nothing, nothing I just finished uni early and I thought I’d come down to training early to have a throw’.

“I said ‘you better not have been practicing, because if the boys find out, I’m telling you now mate, they’ll rip you apart’.

“He said ‘nah, nah I haven’t’, so I get up in the trainers’ room and old Jack the trainer, I said to him ‘Jack, how long’s he been there and doing it for?’.

“He said ‘since the day you blokes took the piss out of him, he’s been every training night at 2.30 throwing darts’.

“Now that is desire to be the best.”

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