Supporting the Magpies from a young age, my father should have disowned me. Little did I understand when dad “accidentally” bought me a navy blue & white Carlton scarf, instead of my teams black & white scarf the true extent of his pain in the fact that his sports engaged youngster supported his team’s arch rival. Only when I was older did I realise this was no accident (don’t worry I picked out a black & white scarf shortly after and went scarfless watching my first live footy match at the G). Riding the lows and feeling constantly disappointed & frustrated with the lack of success of my team my mother often questioned my strong seemingly unfounded loyalty from such an early age. After another bad loss she offered me an out, “It’s not too late to change” (my team). It posed an interesting question to me as a youngster. Perhaps it was ok to jump ship by a certain age and not be a “traitor”. A few years later mum again questioned my loyalty after witnessing how deeply disappointed I was with a bad loss, “why do you support Collingwood?” I answered simply and emphatically, “because they’re my team & I can’t just change.” I never contemplated leaving them, even as I watched other “supporters”, even friends of mine, jump ship during my school years. I knew I could never dissert the black and white & felt angered that they could so easily do so. Despite their performance throughout history, the Pies have retained their reputation in the AFL as the team everyone loves to hate.
Footy season is back, the wait is over & Round 1 is just behind us. Since the season opener was last Thursday night, Saturday could not come quick enough for me. Finally, my chance to get out there and see my beloved Magpies in action again. Nothing like that feeling and excitement pumping into my veins before a game. Nervous, yet excited in anticipation before every game, whether it’s Round 1 or the last game I attended, the 2010 Grand Final replay, it’s the same pre-game feeling I always get. Proudly sporting my black & white guernsey, scarf & membership card around my neck I walk down to Etihad Stadium, with the smell of Autumn in the air, to watch the Pies take on Port Adelaide. As I’m approaching the stadium my thoughts of the 2011 season start racing through my mind. I know this season will be like no other. I hope that we stay injury free, are able to make the finals & go all the way once again. Back-to-back, wouldn’t that be amazing. But there is a larger thought overaching all my thoughts, there is no doubt that our amazing coach will no longer be head coach in 2012 despite being in the best form of his long & successful career. This is something I have been thinking about ever since mid 2009, when the controversial and “innovative” deal was made. Buckley would take over as head coach in 2012 after serving as an assistant coach in the interim and Malthouse’s days as head coach would be numbered as he would then move onto an undefined role as “Director of coaching” for 3 years, including and beyond the 2012 season.
The problem is Malthouse looks like and sounds like he has the passion to coach beyond 2011 and everybody knows he still has the talent, expertise & experience to successfully do so. He is undoubtedly the best coach in the AFL. Based on this it’s unlikely that the Buckley-Malthouse coaching set-up in 2012 is likely to work and keep both parties truly happy with their respective roles.
Collingwood President Eddie has come out and confirmed that regardless of a Premiership for the Pies under Malthouses leadership, the contract will stand and Buckley will be coach in 2012.
Are we afraid Bucks will walk away from the club if he’s not given the reigns in 2012? Forget contracts for a moment. Will Eddie feel that he is going back on his promise to his most publicly open favourite ‘son’? – everyone is aware of the extent of his special affection towards Bucks. Don’t get me wrong, I love Bucks. He is framed in my house, he has been brilliant for us for so long, Captained us, won a record Copeland trophy count, not to mention a Brownlow & Norm Smith Medal. And, after winning every individual honour the game has to offer, the footy Gods were so very cruel to him, denying him the ultimate, team success and the highly chased premiership that alluded him.
Let’s take a look at the other side. Could Eddie be so cruel to deny Micky Malthouse the chance to potentially beat Lethal Leigh’s record of 3 back-to-back-to-back premierships? Given that, the Pies contributed to Brisbane’s winning record, since two of those premiership wins were against the Pies. If ever we were going to do it, 3 in a row, surely this moment now looked the most conceivable.
I respect Malthouse so much. Every club he has taken over as Senior coach has been on the bottom half of the ladder, Foostcray back in the day, West Coast & then Collingwood, my very own team was on the bottom of the ladder when he agreed to take over. A huge challenge ahead of him, he would have it no other way. He has put in the hard yards and the club would not be where it is today without Mick. So finally when we are successful and he can accept and see some reward for all the hard effort over the years it’s time to say goodbye and for him to gracefully hand over the reigns to a player he coached? Is that the best way to reward a coach at the peak of his coaching career for all the years of service he has provided? Doesn’t seem fair.
How did we get to this point? Why do the Pies find themselves in this position? Seemed straight forward at the time. The pies didn’t want to lose one of our greatest players, ex Captain Buckley to a rival club. Should the club have let Bucks go to North Melbourne or Richmond in a Senior Coaching role to further his coaching education? I believe they should have. Gavin Brown (would not be at rival club Carlton) it’s fair to say he would have stayed at the club and when Malthouse was ready to retire either Browny or Bucks could have taken over the reigns at that stage. Both would have a good depth of experience at that point, and would be in a great position to continue the newfound winning culture at the club, and future success beyond this decade. Perhaps Eddie’s deal back in 2009 was a bit premature. Maybe he should have taken it “week by week”, as everyone knows a week is a long time in football, & 2 years is an eternity. However, the decision was made.
Before Malthouse’s appointment, we had not played finals footy for so long and since 2002 till now we have played more finals footy than any other club. Not a bad little stat for Mick’s coaching resume.
He believes he is at the height of his coaching mastery at this moment. From the great man himself “I believe I have never coached better than I’m coaching right now.” Considering his knowledge, experience and games coached this is a huge statement from Mick.
Is Buckley ready after his 2 year apprenticeship, or is the better question does Malthouse still have the desire and something important to offer and give the club after 12 years at the reign, and over 27 years of AFL Head coaching experience? Absolutely. Would Buckley benefit from another few years working under Master Mick? I believe he would.
Buckley could find himself in an unenviable position of taking over the reigns from a back-to-back premiership side. There’s no doubt that Buckley is a former champion and that he will take coaching head on & demand everything out of the players. He will do everything in his power to grow in the role and be a successful coach, everyone knows coaching is a hard caper, and many great players have failed at the task. I hope this isn’t the case with Bucks. I’ll never forget watching him walk off the G in the 5 point pre-liminary final loss to the Cats in 2007. Knowing that he would never be a premiership player, watching his body language, it was more than a disappointed walk off the ground, it was clear he knew this also. The injustice of it all sunk in, and my heart bled black and white for him. Hopefully, this will be his chance to lead his beloved Magpies to a Premiership. I still do not believe it is the right time for the transition, but of course when the time comes I will support him 100% in his new role.
My thoughts wander back to our current Coach Mick. I can’t help to wonder how any club’s board of directors and President could dispose of such a coach when he’s demonstrating that he’s at the height of his coaching powers.
Only the start of the season & the drama of the coaching situation has already been built. The 2011 season will definitely be an interesting one for my mighty magpies for more than one reason. In true Malthouse fashion, I’ll take the poetic route on this one. A quote from a Robert Burns poem that perhaps became most famous for its use in the novel by John Steinbeck, entitled ‘Of Mice & Men’. “The best laid schemes o’ mice an ‘men, Gang aft agley.” Even the best constructed elaborate plans that men make often go awry.