Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley says the word “emptiness” forced him to halt his press conference and respond to a column by Mark Robinson about his career on Sunday night.
Buckley responded unprompted to Robinson’s article in the Herald Sun, which noted the Magpies great had played and coached the most AFL games without winning a flag.
It also referred to comments by Buckley made in 2012 when he said “there is no way I can possibly fill that void” left by not winning a premiership as a player.
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“I just want to put on record my life is very far from empty,” Buckley said in his press conference.
“I don’t have a flag, I’ll be working towards it, but it’s not going to define me whether I get it or not.
“My life is very full. I’m very fortunate I’ve got a lot of love, a great club, a great group of boys and I’m looking forward to whatever the next couple of months brings.”
Robinson, who said he had received a social media “pile-on”, revealed the Magpies coach had called him before AFL 360 went to air on Monday night.
He explained Buckley responded to the article from a personal point of view, when he was purely coming from a football perspective.
“When I decided to write this story, and I explained this to Nathan, this wasn’t ‘let’s put Nathan down’,” Robinson said on AFL 360.
“This was ‘Nathan Buckley’s really coaching 200 games? Really? Jeez, that’s gone quick. Where is he?’ And then from there it went who is he?
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“I spoke about a very football aspect of Nathan Buckley, because who am I to delve into his personal life? What Nathan did after the game was spoke from a very personal level.
“There’s no animosity. People are thinking, ‘oh, we’re gonna punch on!’ There was no animosity whatsoever. I had my job and I did it, and Bucks responded as a person rather than as a coach, which he’s got every right to do.”
Later in the show, Buckley appeared as part of the weekly rotation on Coaches’ Night, and explained the word “emptiness” – which was part of the headline – “triggered” him.
“The word that really got to me was emptiness. And there’s a little bit of ego involved in it because if it didn’t mean anything to me, I wouldn’t have been triggered by it,” he said on AFL 360.
“I would love to be apart of a premiership squad, and the experience as an assistant coach in 2010 was pretty good, to see the joy on young faces. And when I experienced it as a 20-year-old at Port Adelaide it was pretty special too. So I suppose you know selfishly how that feels, and you want it.
“On a bigger picture, the idea of emptiness was problematic for me – and it wasn’t actually a word that Robbo used, it was in the title, the headline.
“But to think in the times we’re in at the moment that if you don’t win a premiership, that you’re empty, is not consistent with the way I’m viewing life and my perspective on life, and even our situation at present.”
Buckley felt he needed to address the issue in his press conference because it spoke to how he is trying to coach his players, and how he wants them to think about success and failure.
“I’ve been pretty big on it with our playing group,” he said.
“One of the philosophies with my coaching is not so much an X or an O or a tactical piece, but it’s how we approach our opportunities in the game, and how we accept winning and losing as part of the reality of what we do.
“We’re all a little bit empty in some shape or form but to focus on that part of it is not sustainable and it doesn’t achieve what you’re looking out to achieve.”
He was also asked about the common view in AFL circles that a player, coach or team is not successful if they don’t win a premiership – whether in a specific year or across a career.
“There’s so much more to footy,” Buckley said.
“Any given year we have a premier, and we have 17 that fall short. That doesn’t mean that 18 are going to be a chance of winning a premiership, every time you go into a season, everyone’s on different cycles.
“I suppose over a long enough period of time you’d like to think you’ll get a chance to have a lick of the ice cream.”