26/02/2024

Nathan Buckley. Image: collingwoodfc.com.au

A decorated member of the Collingwood Football Club, Nathan Buckley deserves respect as he departs as coach after Monday's Big Freeze.

After months of speculation, Nathan Buckley’s time as Collingwood’s senior coach has come to an end.

Buckley’s last game as coach will be against Melbourne, this Monday for the Big Freeze game.

477 games as coach and captain with the club will very quickly come to an end.

After conversations about the direction of the Collingwood Football Club, particularly 2023 and beyond, it was decided mutually that Buckley would not be a part of this direction.

It’s assumed now that there will be many saying ‘thank god he’s out’, and ‘about time’, but it’s not what Buckley deserves.

Despite some of his coaching years being less than successful, it’s what Buckley contributed to the club since walking in as a 21-year old that deserves him more respect than what’s anticipated to come his way.

Since beginning his role as coach in 2012, Buckley has led Collingwood to 116 wins, 99 losses and two draws.

The initial handover from previous coach Mick Malthouse to Buckley seemed to be worth it. In his first year, Buckley led Collingwood to 17 wins, eight losses and an overall ladder position of fourth.

Unfortunately, it only went downhill from there for the Pies. In 2017, Collingwood recorded its lowest ladder finish, 13th, since 2005 where they finished 15th.

2014-2017 more specifically were dubbed as Collingwood’s ‘rebuilding years’ and it seemed partially right. During this time, the likes of Darcy Moore, Jordan De Goey, Jack Crisp, Brayden Maynard, Adam Treloar, and Jeremy Howe were all drafted or traded to the club.

Out went Luke Ball (2014), Dane Swan (2016), Nick Maxwell (2014), Travis Cloke (2016), and Heritier Lumumba (2014) to only name a few.

It was a completely new look for the side who had won the 2010 Grand Final, and finished runners up in 2011. Many had little faith in this younger side who hadn’t played a lot of football together.

In 2018, the Pies did what the rest of the AFL world thought they wouldn’t do and finish runners-up.

We all know the story of Dom Sheed and the 2018 Grand Final. Collingwood could have very easily be named premiers that year.

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Buckley had won himself some immunity. Although finishing fourth the following year and just missing out on making the Grand Final, Buckley had made his second finals series in a row. Collingwood seemed to be back.

A fall to eighth in 2020 you could argue the COVID-19 pandemic and the very disruptive season had something to do with that. Frankly any team could use that as an excuse for last year.

2021 though is where the ‘rebuilding years’, the 2018 Grand Final, and the 24 years Buckley has spent at the club as a player and coach seems to no longer be enough.

After 12 rounds of football, Collingwood sit 16th on the ladder with only three wins. The last time it sat 16th at this stage of the season was back in 1999, where it finished the wooden spooners.

If now wasn’t the time for Buckley to see that what he was trying to achieve at Collingwood wasn’t working, then when was that time?

Buckley will forever remain one of the greatest to be associated to the Collingwood Football Club; a Brownlow Medal in 2003, Norm Smith in 2002, All-Australian honours seven times, six Copeland Trophies, and Collingwood’s captain from 1999-2007.

His commitment to the club cannot be doubted. What he achieved with the club is among the best performances by any of the Collingwood greats.

However, it just seems that Buckley is stuck back to when he was a player for the club. Football 15-odd years ago is not the football we see today. And it’s not just because of the rules.

There is a completely new crop of players and teams, players who are built and skilled differently. Buckley is up against 17 sides that have all undergone player and skill changes. It just seems that he acknowledged that too late.

Collingwood will be left in complete shambles after Buckley departs in term of their board members. Already with Eddie McGuire out and disputes between the board and the clubs members.

There’s much talk that Collingwood needs someone like Ross Lyon or Alistair Clarkson at the helm.

Collingwood needs someone fresh, someone that will respond well with many of the younger players. While Lyon and Clarkson are terrific candidates, maybe someone who hasn’t coached a side before is what the Pies need.

Someone who can create a completely new direction for Collingwood, based off the players in front of them and not based on previous coaching experience.

It could be the change that Collingwood finally need though. Someone fresh to steer Collingwood into a direction that correlates with the ever-changing times of the AFL.

Buckley’s service with the Pies will forever be remembered, appreciated and loved. But for I, a Collingwood supporter who wants to see my team as great as they were back in 2010, change is needed.

I respect Buckley a lot for deciding to pull the pin on his coaching career before the board made that decision for him. For someone who has been at the club for as long as he has, the decision would not have been easy.

He is essentially stepping away from his family.

“I feel like I’ve been blessed to be a part of this football club over a large period of time,” Buckley said at press conference this morning.

In the best interest of Collingwood to return to regular finals appearances, and to be a team that clubs again fear to come up against, a new leader is needed.

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