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Sharpening the edge

December 31, 2012 3:01 PM

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To read more of Buckley’s post-season review, you can purchase the 2012 In Black and White Yearbook online, at the Westpac Centre Superstore or by phoning (03) 8412 0026.

After a challenging debut season as an AFL coach, Nathan Buckley runs the rule over a successful, but ultimately unfulfilling, 2012 campaign in the 2012 In Black and White Yearbook.

Nathan Buckley likes to distil the game of Australian Rules to some simple truths. It makes a coach’s job easier, perhaps, to then explain the game to the hoard of microphones that haunt him throughout the grind of an AFL season, keeping in mind that few men more had more attention on them than the debutant Collingwood coach in 2012.

Buckley therefore shelves the extended explanation for his team’s fourth-placed finish, settling instead on what he believes separates so many teams on a year-in, year-out basis.

‘We have an understanding that we have a high level of talent compared to some sides, but I think that’s overstated in some ways – a lot of sides have talent,’ he reflects.

‘So it then comes down to what wins games of footy. Yes, talent does, but you’ve got to be prepared to work harder for longer than your opponent.’

Turn the cameras and tape recorders off. There it is: that simple assessment came to encapsulate what drove the Magpies to their fourth successive appearance in the top four of the competition. They had talent, yes, and their depth was challenged by injuries, yet they continued to work harder than most.

Buckley is equally straight forward in his approach to not only maintaining his team’s place in the elite, but pushing to secure a second premiership cup on the mantelpiece for this playing list.

And it’s no surprise that he espouses the philosophy that typified what made him such a remarkable player during his own career – be the best prepared, most professional organisation you can be across all seven days of the week.

‘We all need to sharpen up,’ he says.

‘Coaches, players, administrators, all the leaders of the footy club. That relates to the games themselves, but a lot of that happens in preparation. Prepare with a real intensity and focus to find your best and push your limits all the time.’

Buckley has emerged from a rookie season in which he was proud of his playing list, a group which laboured under the strain of absenteeism to some of its standout talent. Fact is, when the coach sits to consider the pros and cons of the season, he has a lot to consider, including:

In 2012, his men won 16 home and away games, but just one of its three finals. It was a respectable return, yet three losses to Hawthorn (and an inability to stop the Hawks’ attack) highlighted a gap in performance to one of the grand finalists. And after seven years of futility against the black and white, the premiership winning Sydney unit finally measured up to Collingwood when it mattered most, in the preliminary final.

Disturbingly, the team’s performance fell away from mid-season: from 11-2 after 13 rounds, Collingwood went 4-4 to close out the home and away season; make that 5-6 if you include the finals. Plus, they shed eight per cent in the for-against column in that final two months of the home and away season.

‘We were poor against Carlton in Round 15 and Hawthorn in Round 17, then two games against North (a 30-point loss) and West Coast (a 49-point defeat) showed us that if we weren’t at our best we were vulnerable,’ Buckley concedes.

‘They were big wakeup calls.’

No doubt the above three paragraphs sit in the “cons” column. But how about the “pros”?

To read more of Buckley’s post-season review, you can purchase the 2012 In Black and White Yearbook online, at the Westpac Centre Superstore or by phoning (03) 8412 0026.