Over to you: Buckley handballs his future into Magpies’ hands

Nathan Buckley was in a largely jovial, even reflective, mood at his weekly press conference on Wednesday, beginning by joking to one journalist about his shirt, and later whether he should bring out a television with the team listed on the screen when asked whether Darcy Moore would start forward this weekend.

Off contract this year, and with his side slumping at 1-5, Buckley is a man in the spotlight and he knew the moment for serious talk would come. That it did. But where he had previously opted against outlining his intentions for next season and beyond, that changed significantly when he was peppered with questions about whether he wanted to retain a role he has held since 2012.

By declaring he wants to continue in his role as Collingwood coach beyond this season, Nathan Buckley has turned the focus back on the decision-makers at the club.Credit:Getty Images

“Do I want to continue? The short answer is yes. Do I want to coach? Yes,” Buckley said.

While he could yet decide to walk away, his fresh response has changed the paradigm, presumably until official discussions begin after the bye in round 14. Put simply, Buckley has handballed what is one of the most momentous decisions in club history well and truly back into the Magpies’ nest.

Former Magpies recruiter Matt Rendell suggested on SEN afterwards that Buckley had little choice but to deliver the answer he did, and tipped he may have been encouraged to do so to ease the supporter heat on the club, and even to focus his players on the task at hand – defeating the Gold Coast Suns on Saturday.

Football department boss Graham Wright and media communications chief Stephen Reilly were watching on in the room at Magpie headquarters but Buckley did have options. He could have said he had yet to make that call or fudged another response. He has been around the block more than most. However, he opted to declare he wanted to coach the Magpies next season and even did not rule out the possibility of coaching elsewhere should he not be wanted by Collingwood, revealing only those closest to him knew his thoughts.

To the latter, Buckley was only responding to a question about being a “career coach”, but it immediately meant club figures, members and supporters needed to truly ponder what life would be like without one of the most important and prominent figures in the club’s storied history, and how they would feel seeing him in opposition colours. Do the Magpies really have the nerve to let him go? Some may say yes, as was shown in Eddie McGuire’s exit.

It was also intriguing that Buckley named the five men who would make the club’s call on his future.
New president Mark Korda, chief executive Mark Anderson, football department chief and former teammate Graham Wright, and board directors Paul Licuria (also a former teammate) and Peter Murphy, the man whose 2017 report into the club’s operations helped lead to Buckley’s reappointment, will all be involved. This may well have been innocent enough by Buckley but by naming names there can now be no doubt as to who fans can vent their anger towards regardless of which call is made.

Buckley also put to bed debate that he needed immediate clarity, adding he was ready to wait until after the mid-season bye.

He said the Magpies were on the same page in terms of finals aspirations – “absolutely” Buckley responded when asked about Korda’s assertion – but said the “play-the-kids mentality” would continue. “We have made aggressive moves with our list to regenerate on the go,” he said.

Buckley did lament an inability to win the close matches this season but insisted he was not considering any “dire” fallout and his interests were only in the short, medium and long term for the Pies.

“If I had a two-year contract now, I wouldn’t be coaching any differently to what I am dong day to day right now,” he said.

Nathan Buckley at Magpies training at the Holden Centre on Wednesday. Credit:Getty Images

“There is no manifest difference in my attitude, in my job, in my role in looking at the team, what is best for this week, what is best in four to six weeks’ time. I take medium term as meaning the end of this year, and then long-term and beyond.

“Our list profile is forcing our hand in many ways and that is a position that we knew we were going to be in. We have had a few injuries to first-choice players in the last two or three weeks and it’s providing opportunities for young blokes to come up.”

Buckley, for his part, is no longer a “young” coach, and has grown immeasurably through the past decade, as evidenced when he began recalling the turnover of football department chiefs of 2012 and ’13. Wright, having only crossed from Hawthorn in January, is no doubt still gathering intelligence to clarify his stance, but the Magpies as a whole surely by now know what Buckley is capable of.

“I have been a senior coach for 10 years,” Buckley said.

“I have had hard days and I have had enjoyable days. I think the former outweighs the latter but if I didn’t have a passion for it, you wouldn’t be able to do it any further.”

Just how much further is now in the hands of the Magpies’ brass.

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