Former Collingwood president Eddie McGuire has opened up on what he described as an ‘emotional’ day following senior coach Nathan Buckley’s resignation.
The Magpies confirmed on Wednesday morning that next Monday’s Queen’s Birthday clash would be Buckley’s last as coach – ending a 10-year tenure.
Speaking on Fox Footy’s AFL 360 on Wednesday night, McGuire said the overwhelming feeling was one of “emotion”, as well as a “closing off” of his own legacy at the club and reminder of the great people who have came through.
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“Emotion was it. It was the closing off, even a further underlining of my time at the club with Nathan,” McGuire said.
“You can’t help but go back to the early days and the dreams and the aspirations. Early on, appointing Nathan (as) the captain, having the great Gavin Brown still there at the club. Having Mick Malthouse come and the excitement early on of what we were able to do.
“Tony Shaw’s handover was very similar to today in many ways. So a lot of emotions of great Collingwood people, that’s ultimately where I was today, just thinking about the people of Collingwood who have given so much to the organisation over the years. There’s no one greater in giving to Collingwood than Nathan Buckley.”
McGuire has sensationally been one of Buckley’s biggest supporters over the years. He appointed the champion midfielder to take over as coach in 2012 as part of the infamous succession plan, which saw Mick Malthouse hand over the reigns after winning a premiership and playing in a grand final in the two previous seasons.
The ex-Magpies president also oversaw the key decision in re-signing Buckley in 2017 amid a full-scale review of the club when he was under immense pressure – where Buckley then helped lead Collingwood to a grand final and preliminary final in the following two seasons.
Asked if he thought Buckley leaving was the right decision, McGuire said: “I’m not going to buy into the decision or not. There’s been plenty of times over the years where I’ve had to decide whether to sack the coach, keep the coach or whatever ¬– usually at three-quarter time.
“In the end, I think what Nathan Buckley said today and with Mark Anderson and Graham Wright – it was a coming together of circumstances. Ultimately, everyone did the right thing by the club.
“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,” he said.
“Ultimately, he tells me that he believes in his heart that it was the right thing to do. It probably will be, as we all take a deep breath, the best thing for him and his family as well. And a next chapter will open up, an extraordinary career and life of Nathan Buckley. I have no doubt that he has further glories to attain.”
McGuire said when he resigned as president at the start of the year, he didn’t envision a change of senior coach happening this season – explaining that there are multiple factors that could have affected that decision.
He mentioned that the 2020 Covid-affected year took its toll on many people and that he wouldn’t have been surprised if Buckley had stood down at some stage over the last 12 months.
“I always take into account it’s not just what’s happening on the field, you’re looking at other things as well. Bucks had been at the coalface for basically 30 years and I was watching how he was,” McGuire said.
“Not just him, but myself, I decided to go for another 12 months and didn’t get that far. The Covid thing really hit a lot of people, I keep saying last year was like 10 years and the pressures that were involved and families and all sorts of different things.
“It wouldn’t have surprised me at some stage if Nathan had have come and said ‘Listen, I need to have a break’ or ‘I’m finished’” he said. “Having said that, it could’ve been as easy to say ‘here we are in a rebuild, let’s have a long-term view about this, we know how these things work. We did one already together, Mick Malthouse did two in his time with me at Collingwood, let’s go again and let’s sign up for three of four years and get ourselves right and really go hard on this.’
“There was no decision or thought that it was going to happen, but the fact that it has today, it is what it is because it was a convergence of situations.”
Asked if he thought about extending Buckley’s contract over fear that 2021 would be a season of vulnerability, McGuire said: “No, because there was a year there and as far as I was concerned, it was never a case of Bucks leaving or getting the sack with me. It was whether or not we decided the time was up at some stage, we would work it out together.
“As far as I was concerned, he was on a rolling contract, but that didn’t mean he wouldn’t get the flick if he didn’t come up to scratch or he wouldn’t give us the flick if we weren’t doing the rights thing either.
“It was just total trust because you had somebody whose total devotion was to the football club, and you could work through those things. So there was never any thought about that, but if it came up, you can sit down and do these things as grown people and as professionals with a genuine love and affection for each other but with the ultimate to get the best possible result for your club.”
Asked if Ross Lyon has the natural qualities to be Collingwood coach, McGuire joked: “Why do you reckon he’s been sitting alongside me?”
He added that there was numerous good candidates who could be Collingwood’s next coach, believing they will walk into a club with a bright future.
“I think there’s a big field of people who will be very good for Collingwood and also Collingwood will be very good for them,” McGuire said. “They’re going to walk into a club that has built every situation you could possible have. And with another $15 (to) $16 million about to go back into it again.
“The women’s is set up, everything is set up beautifully. The thing that we wanted to get sorted out was the ‘Do Better’ report, which we initiated some 14 to 16 months ago. It came to its conclusion; those things have been rolled out now.
“So I think just about every issue that we could anticipate, and there’s always new ones, Collingwood’s in pretty good shape on at the moment. I’m proud of what it is, it was always going to big when I left, I knew that, and it is when Nathan Buckley leaves.”
He then put the spotlight back on celebrating Buckley’s legacy and everything he has accomplished at Collingwood.
“Today’s about Bucks, today’s about a lifetime (at the club) – 28 years – about a player who was sometimes criticised for being too professional. Who’s high water mark should have been the benchmark for everybody else,” he said. “But he was just great and he could’ve been abrasive at times, we didn’t always see eye-to-eye, we challenged each other along the way and had far different approaches to different things. But we were able to achieve a lot at the Collingwood Football Club together.”
McGuire admitted that he was still saddened by the fact that Buckley never got to lift that elusive premiership cup during his time as both player and coach.
But he believes it does not change how highly Buckley is regarded as not only in Collingwood’s history, but the game’s at large.
“Of course it does (sadden him that Buckley didn’t win a flag with the Pies), it always did,” he said. “(In) 2002 when he lifted the club, did everything he possible could, won the Norm Smith Medal against the odds.
“He’s just an icon on the game. I remember Jock McHale saying Bob Rose was the greatest Collingwood player he saw and I know that Bob Rose said Nathan Buckley was greatest Collingwood player he saw. There’s a couple of good judges over a long period of time at our football club to have Nathan Buckley’s name in such a group. You can’t get much better than that.
“He’s been a wonderful servant of the club and I hope he gets the accolades on Monday he deserves.”
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