Plot thickens in Nathan Buckley’s ‘messy’ break-up with Collingwood

Nathan Buckley’s shock mid-season departure has sparked speculation on whether he lost the support of Collingwood’s playing roster.

The second chapter of Buckley’s stellar career with the Collingwood Football Club will draw to a close on Monday, with the Queen’s Birthday clash against Melbourne set to be his last as Magpies coach.

On Wednesday morning, Collingwood officially announced Magpies assistant Robert Harvey would take over as interim coach for the remainder of the 2021 season.

However, several reports suggested Buckley had fallen out of favour with sections of the playing squad, potentially contributing to his departure.

According to The Age, Collingwood’s players still liked and respected Buckley, but some felt worn out by his defence-first strategies.

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Fox Sports reporter Tom Morris told AFL Tonight there was a disconnect between Buckley and some of his players.

“He certainly lost sections of the playing group throughout this year,” Morris said. “I don’t think he was really able to harness the playing group as he would have liked.

“Some players will be relieved, some others will miss him. But broadly, I think the sentiment inside the club is that time was right, and clearly Nathan Buckley agrees with that as well.”

Morris wrote for “Did he lose some players? Yes, weeks ago. But that’s not abnormal for a team down the foot of the ladder. Nor should it detract from his legacy.”

Nathan Buckley’s 10-year stint as Collingwood coach ends on Monday.Source:Getty Images

On Wednesday, Buckley spoke openly about his discussions with the Collingwood Board throughout a tumultuous 2021 season, but remained tight-lipped when pressed on whether or not he stepped down on his own accord.

However, the 48-year-old said he “would have been happy to coach the year out” if the club needed him to.

“I’ve had a part in this. I’m not being smart about this, but I have had a part in the conversations,” Buckley said. “Nothing lasts forever. I was going to be tapped at some stage, but there’s no doubt that this is the best thing for the football club.

“I believe this is the best move for the club as well and I look forward to seeing where it goes from here.”

AFL reporter Caroline Wilson, who had foreshadowed Buckley’s departure last month, suggested the 48-year-old was pushed out rather than stepping aside.

“I think it was a sense of inevitability when the message was subtly delivered on Monday when he met with Collingwood bosses,” Wilson told Footy Classified.

“Mid-season coaching departures are always messy. They always portray to me the picture of a club in a bit of a crisis, and I don’t like that it happened for Nathan Buckley mid-season.”

Former Fremantle coach Ross Lyon agreed: “Clearly I think (head of football Graham Wright) has tapped him out. There’s an appetite for change.”

Collingwood captain Scott Pendlebury conceded Buckley’s resignation came as a surprise, revealing how he broke the news to the playing roster.

“It’s definitely a shock, and the first time in my career that I’ve ever been through something like this before. I feel almost a little bit numb,” Pendlebury told reporters on Wednesday.

“(He) planned to have a bit of a chat with the leaders and then the timeline sped up and so (he told us) just as a full group. He spoke about (how he thinks) it is the best thing for the club, no person is bigger than the club and that it’s the right time for him to step away.

“He spoke about his gratitude for the place — he spent half his life here — and how excited he is by the future. And excited for the opportunity that he’s had as a player, as assistant coach, as a coach and everything that he’s contributed to our club.”

Buckley wanted to do what was best for the club.Source:Getty Images

Speaking on Fox Footy’s AFL 360, former Collingwood Eddie McGuire refused to comment on whether he believed the club had made the right call to part ways with its favourite son.

“Everyone did the right thing by the club,” McGuire said on Wednesday evening.

“That’s what I was most proud of today and I’m just so delighted that Nathan will get the accolades that he deserves. As somebody who’s always done the right thing, not only by Collingwood, but by the game in general. And his finish is just the same way as he’s always been, he’s done the right thing.

“Ultimately, he tells me that he believes in his heart that it was the right thing to do.”

Buckley took charge of the Magpies after replacing premiership coach Mick Malthouse in 2012. He has since led Collingwood to 116 victories with a commendable winning record of 54 per cent.

Buckley also represented the Magpies for 14 seasons from 1994 to 2007, playing 260 games in the black and white guernsey.

He was a seven-time All-Australian, winning the Brownlow Medal in 2003 and Norm Smith Medal in 2002.

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