Collingwood: From the Inside Out reaction – Will this change AFL forever?


I switched on to ABC last night expecting a run-of-the-mill recount of Collingwood’s near-fairy tale in 2018. I got much more than that.


Nestled on the couch, it immediately took everyone to the end. The last few minutes of the Grand Final, the Dom Sheed goal that sunk fans back into their seats. The siren that broke hearts. But then it went further then your standard AFL documentary. Before I could even comprehend what was happening, I was seeing Collingwood players, some of my heroes, being consoled in the rooms and breaking down into tears. The amount of trust they gained off the club to be able to sit in on Buckley’s first words to the playing group down in the rooms is incredible, and what Buckley said kicked off a message that would ruminate throughout the entire documentary.


You see, from the first five minutes the documentary alerted us all to one fact – this wasn’t going to be the standard documentary on a great football story that fell oh-so-close to September success. It was about something deeper, a football revolution that had unfolded before their eyes in 2018.


What immediately makes it stand out is its choice of people to feature on. There’s no Scott Pendlebury, no Steele Sidebottom. The oldest player they focus on is Jarryd Blair, who was an interesting selection considering it was known going into 2018 that he was fighting for another contract. Instead, by picking Treloar and Grundy, there was an edge of youth, of change. They were all brutally honest in assessing Buckley’s demeanour up until the end of 2017, and despite initially appearing harsh, it was shown throughout the hour long production that this was necessary in improving Bucks.


What this documentary showed is that Collingwood is leading a football ideology that is much more sensitive and positive. Buckley himself, who is rejuvenated throughout 2018 as he accepts how he has to act to get the club culture he always pictured, shows that one great self-aware person can help shed the skin of the older professional days. What really got me was the emotion and affection shown – footy clubs are meant to be the pinnacle of manliness, of tough jocks and brutal banter. But Collingwod was the opposite of that – there were hugs going around everywhere, tears often shed and being met with understanding and empathy. The question many AFL lovers have is what it is like to be in the Collingwood environment, the professional world of the most scrutinised team in Australia. And now they know it is full of fun, and blissful unawareness about what external people say about them. Because they know they’re all people, much like you and me, and therefore treat each other like humans, not robotic athletes.


The documentary was filmed at the perfect time. It’s amazing to see Buckley as not just the hero of the story, but as the initial villain who transforms. Witnessing this is emotional, for all of us who saw him play as the true tough warrior he was. All of a sudden, he had shed that hard exterior and was immensely likeable.


Brodie Grundy showed he is not just a dominant ruckman. He’s not the expected AFL player either. It’s very profound to see him as a thinking person who knows himself but wants to truly discover who he is. His obsession with being a rounded person who isn’t just restricted to his AFL exploits is incredibly humble – who would’ve thought one of the favourites for the Brownlow wants to be known by anything other than his great performances? If you’re a Collingwood fan like me who doesn’t want him to leave the club, this compounded that more than ever. He’s a wonderful young man, much like his club mates.


It’s sad that only three players were shown alongside Bucks. Treloar’s struggles with mental health issues were scary, frightening. There was no blame, no jabs at the media. It was all about him and what he went through. Learning about his upbringing and the struggles he still has, its heartbreaking to think he is not the only AFL player going through this. Hopefully, his bravery will inspire everyone else struggling that it’s ok, and that a great modern club will provide the right avenues to talk.


Jarryd Blair’s delisting was an incredibly difficult scene to watch. Here is a guy who was all about Collingwood, playing in a dream 2010 premiership and serving the club with aplomb for another eight years. He wanted nothing more but to stay on and represent his black and white club once more. But the scene of his delisting was bittersweet for both him and Buckley. The latter could’ve taken the easy option, giving excuses for his delisting or blowing smoke up his clacker and saying he wished he could’ve kept him. Instead, it was nothing about Blair as a player. Yes, he may not have been good enough to stay on the list, but Bucks only cared about Blair as a person. And despite his initial anger and hurt, you could tell Blair knew that, and respected that. There’s so much difficulty in AFL, but what this documentary has proven is that a new wave of acceptance and focus on everyone being utterly human is profound.


I’ve thought about this a lot since watching it last night. I was excited to get a deeper look into Collingwood’s run to success in 2018, what had changed and seeing the glory of that preliminary final triumph. But what I came away loving was the emotion shown. If any sports club wants to model itself on anyone, they can once again do so with the juggernaut of Collingwood. This could’ve been any club shown and I would’ve instantly felt a connection, an enormous amount of respect for accepting that everyone, even AFL players, make mistakes and struggle sometimes. That all that truly matters is that they are all people trying their best and working together in amazing ways. But for it to be my own club that was shown before me in such a naked way was mind blowing, and my heart still pangs with a mix of emotions I can’t quite place. And that’s ok. Maybe it’s an even deeper love for the club and its people festering.


After the 2017 season I wrote an article about why Collingwood should keep Buckley around. Called ‘the Minority Mindset’, it was all about football and strategic reasons. But what I, alongside everyone else, forgot about was the amazing human traits that he could bring, and inspire his fellow co-workers to bring out. They’ve all transformed, and because of that Collingwood may be revolutionising how a professional club should be run. Buckley is at the forefront of that, along with founding fathers Grundy, Treloar and Blair.



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  1. Yeah I thought it was riveting viewing. The Blair exit meeting was just raw. No Bullshit. And if there was ever a chance that Grundy was contemplating a move to the Crows then I would say those chances are zero. Great credit to Buckley for showing his vulnerability and preparedness to change. I kinda even like him a bit now!


    Simply outstanding. A great reflection on the Club.

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