Pampered Pies Breaking Bucks

Collingwood’s effort against St Kilda on Saturday was personified by the performance of Jeremy Howe.


The self-talk goes something like:


“I took a mark and kicked a goal. Now I’m going to get a new tattoo to celebrate.”


The keyboard worriers/warriors on Social media had the knives sharpened and ready to plunge into the carcass of their until-recently-favourite-son:


“If we lose to Melbourne and Essendon he has to go!”


What is it with humanity’s need to wait for a messiah and then crucify him when he doesn’t deliver on inflated expectations? Sound familiar?


At the moment, Nathan Buckley is coaching a team filled with Doubting Thomas’ and Peter-like deniers. As tempting as it is to think about nailing Bucks to the metaphorical cross, maybe we ought to stop and think about how the fans of the club create this culture of premature celebrity and champion status to players who have yet to earn it.


It’s nothing new at Collingwood. The players have ruled the roost since Murray Weidemann and Lou Richards became larger-than-life figures through the confluence of ‘The Weed’ rattling Melbourne in the 1958 Grand Final and ‘The Lip’ taking advantage of the nascent multi-media coverage that accelerated at the same time.


In the 1963 election between Tom Sherrin and Jack Galbally the players, led by Weidemann, decided to back Sherrin “The Players’ Choice” in defiance of Coach Phonse Kyne who openly supported Galbally and urged the players not to get involved. The players didn’t listen and Sherrin was voted in as president of a club divided into bitter factions.


Fast-forward 53 years and the factions at Magpie land remain. Buckley’s players served him the equivalent of a shit-sandwich delivered after a heavy night of beer and pizza. The stench reached the flared black and white nostrils at the MCG around quarter time.


An animated Bucks marched straight to the forwards and was openly remonstrating with them about their inability to keep the ball in the zone or be bothered to lay the odd tackle while doing so. His instructions seem clear enough, so why didn’t they execute?


Maybe Buckley is too intelligent, articulate, caring and honest to be a successful coach. The players seem to like him, but it seems to me that they don’t really fear him or respect him as a coach. Maybe his role is to be more of a mentor like he was in 2010.


What hit home most about Saturday afternoon’s debacle was the lack of on-field leadership. Apart from Pendlebury, no-one seemed to be directing traffic or initiating enthusiasm. They played like a team of passive passengers on methadone.


Let someone else take care of it.


The Premiership players like Reid, Brown and Cloke are all big men with ability. However, they come across as dopey and disengaged when it comes to inspiring many of their less-experienced teammates. So much for all this ‘Leading Teams’ bullshit that is supposed to empower everyone and make them a great leader.


Despite the convoluted datum designed to make the game complex and intricate, footy remains a basic game of getting the ball and delivering to a teammate in a better position who does like-wise until a goal is scored. When you don’t have the ball you defend by either marking an opponent or negating their space. Hawthorn have mastered this like all the great teams before them. If you can’t get the bloody thing and use it well you’re not going to win.


You don’t need a supercoach to tell you something that should be indoctrinated into you by the Under 12s. Perhaps too many players think that they’ve made it by just representing the famous club. It certainly appeared to be the case at the weekend.


St Kilda deserve plenty of credit for their wonderful open footy and disciplined defending. The fact remains that they could only score 5 goals against the Bulldogs the week before yet eased in 18 while having three players injured for most of the second half, including inspirational skipper, Nick Riewoldt.


Is that Buckley’s fault or the players not giving a collective shit?


Collingwood won the corresponding encounter last year by 74 points. The Saints held up the ladder going into this game and by the end the margin flattered the Pies. Experts who should know better had Collingwood in their Top 4 on the back of a couple of ebullient NAB Challenge efforts. I got sucked in, too. More fool me.


In an era of uber-professionalism, this was arguably the most unprofessional effort I’ve seen from a Collingwood team at this stage of the season. If they didn’t have the ability or talent to beat the bottom-of-the-ladder Saints I’d say fair enough, we have a few years of patient re-building ahead.


The total lack of effort combined with some of the most atrocious foot-skills since the Shaw era have me thinking that a player led-revolt may not be too far away at the Holden Centre. People used to trust Holden, but can Collingwood trust its players enough to ensure that they no longer betray Nathan Buckley?



About Phillip Dimitriadis

Carer/Teacher/Writer. Author of Fandemic: Travels in Footy Mythology. World view influenced by Johnny Cash, Krishnamurti, Larry David, Toni Morrison and Billy Picken.


  1. The People's Elbow says

    If any Collingwood supporter viewed Jeremy Howe even as one of the lesser-prophets was bound to have their heart broken.

    Having the bare minimum of expectations from my side, I’m loving every minute of this…

  2. DBalassone says

    Nice to run in to you on Saturday Phil – I think we almost unwittingly collided in our rush to get into the ground before the bounce.

    I’m not blaming the forwards for this one. Cloke is the fall guy whenever we lose (a bit like Shawry blaming Sav Rocca in the mid to late 90s) – I actually reckon Cloke has been okay the last few weeks, pushing up the ground, providing a contest and kicking long.

    To my eyes a a lot of the turnovers happened in the middle of the ground and the defenders (obviously following instruction) were caught out, as they were zoning 20-30 metres of their opponents. To me this loss had a lot more to do with a team trying to get “their structures right” rather than worrying about the ball or the opposition. That’s what worries me.

  3. Ian Syson says

    And to think Eddie [email protected]#$% had to desecrate one of soccer’s sacred sites to let your team of chumps practice on it. You reap what you sow Phil. Or you rip what you sew as your yiayia might have said

  4. watt price tully says

    One of the problems about Howe is that he was underdone. Howe played in 2 VFL practice matches which was less than adequate preparation in my view. He did not play all that well to warrant a selection. Toovey however played well in all three practice matches & in the VFL first match yesterday.

    While I as full of it post game (bile & anger hat is) it is a marathon not a sprint. (although not having any runners from Kenya, Ethiopia & Morocco makes it a little more difficult)

  5. I feel your pain, but happy not to have Howe as part of the problem.

  6. Buckley was sent from Darwin as a youth by his father to learn the game at Alberton under the great John Cahill. Very few training sessions were required before a nickname was decided. FIGJAM. Don’t know much about your players as I don’t follow Collywobblers, but cannot believe all the fault lies there.

  7. Andrew Fithall says

    Like Damian, I was pleased to run into you (and Damian) pre-game. Lucky it wasn’t post game because it would not have been as pleasant. When I recently commented elsewhere on the demise of the People’s Elbow, the man formerly known as the elbow identified a gap that could be filled by Collingwood supporters. I think we have already found a candidate. Keep up the good work.

  8. A good rant, Phil.
    And some fine historical points also.
    I am not quite sure what is going wrong at Collingwood,
    but like the Elbow, I am enjoying it.

  9. Luke Reynolds says

    Nailed it Phil. Time for the playing list to stand up.
    Our foot skills have been atrocious for a few years now. Recruiting players like Levi Greenwood does nothing to improve that situation.

  10. Phil – don’t under estimate the Saints. They’ll beat a few sides this year. But Collingwood was awful. Fair way off the glorious 11 goal quarter against the Cats in the practice match of February. Further evidence that the NAB Cup is like Alice in Wonderland.

  11. I agree Phil that the players need to stand up and take a good hard look and on-field leadership is sorely lacking. But I also think there’s a bit more to the malaise which has swept through like a cancer.

    I have long defended Buckley because I could see what he was attempting to do and there have been periods during his tenure where he has had the team playing very good football. But I’m afraid the time has come to seriously consider where the buck stops.

    Some observations from my cheap seat;

    1. Team selection; consistently dumb, cost us key games last year and this season has not improved. Half expecting Shaun Marsh to get a game this week.
    2. Bill Davoran; not known as Dr Kavorkian for nothing, the injuries and mismanagement (eg Elliott) goes on and on. And this year players have noticeably trimmed down and would struggle to lay a tackle on an Auskicker.
    3. Coach contract extension; what, to appease the media hacks? Bucks is a big boy, he didn’t need to be bubble wrapped. Should have been made to earn another year.
    4. Zone defence; in what parallel universe does giving your opponent 30m work?
    5. Midfield; two of the greatest midfielders of the modern era overseeing the most under performing midfield in the comp. Unfathomable.
    6. Bucks’ assistants; Rocca, Tarkyn, Grace, Harvey – none have any runs on the board. But I’m sure they’re all great blokes and club men. And Balmey’s not concerned where we’re at, so all’s good.
    7. Pendlebury; Yeah it worked well once last year (v Geel) but he’s not Maxwell and is a luxury that is killing us around the ball where the opposition has an extra player at the contest. Hopefully Varcoe’s return will endeth the failed experiment.
    8. Disposal; Are we using flat balls or plastic footies at training? Or is it also a lack of composure and poor choices?
    9. Game plan; is there one? I can’t discern a coherent strategy anymore. The players don’t seem to know what each other is going to do next, when to spread, when to defend, where to position etc. Seems to me whatever Bucks is trying to do is too complicated or simply does not work in the AFL c2016. It’s all panicky handball or stagnant go back and kick over the mark crud. And getting back to my earlier point about assistant coaches, it would seem they and Bucks are working in silos as none of the parts are connecting. The best teams deploy whole of team attack and defence, they work as a unit. At Collingwood’s best they played total football and suffocated the opposition.
    10. List management; Amid some good young recruits we still have far too many that can’t kick – and worse, mostly in the backline where you need clean disposal. Sinclair, Toovey, Frost, Langdon… the list goes on. Blair can do no wrong whereas BK couldn’t get a look in and will probably carve us up this weekend. Caff is popular but the hard decision wasn’t made. We’ve stopped recruiting for needs/positions and now pin our hopes on too many project players.
    11. Player development; How many of our young players have improved? Players like Witts, Grundy, Frost, De Goey & Marley have gone backwards. Others like Broomhead can’t get on the park for more than a couple weeks at a time.

    Apologies for the long rant but this club needs a shake up. Trouble is there’s so many broken parts right now it’s hard to know where to start. The best we can hope for this weekend is a man-on-man-play-instinctive-have-a-proper-crack that might salvage some confidence and pride before 2016 becomes another wasted year.

  12. Trucker Slim says

    And now, from someone who doesn’t know what he’s talking about but if there’s a bar to lean against a cold Hawkers in me hand I’ll spread me gospel.

    I think you’re far too soft on Bucks PD. He has had his chances and supports. I respond to Bucko and JD’s comments on your piece. And I think about Bucks footy journey. In a sense it could be called (leaning on Chomsky for support), Manufacturing Buckley. Eddie is the author.

    That’s not to say that Bucks wasn’t a great player despite Eddie’s infatuation with him. But we are left to wonder what direction (and at what speed) he would have headed in if not for Eddie’s suffocating mentorship.

    I think the Manilla Folders need to let Eddie go and Bucks too and rebuild their story around the Collingwood story not the Eddie mediated Pies4eva short story. For what it’s worth.


  13. Dave Nadel says

    A fair criticism of the players, Phil, but I too think that you are letting Bucks off too lightly. I have generally had a high opinion of him as a coach but I am beginning to have my doubts. If there is a game plan it is not obvious to those of us up in the Ponsford Stand. Yet despite that Nathan obviously believes that there is a plan and he is good as said in an interview last year that Heath Shaw was traded because he wouldn’t stick to the game plan. Right now there is not a single small or medium Collingwood defender playing half as well as Heater has done for most of the last ten years!

    I am not a fan of zone defence but I have seen it work on some occasions, however at the moment Collingwood is neither playing zone defence nor man on man defence. Our defensive tactic seems to be to allow the opposing forwards and midfielders to run into space, grab the ball and hope that we can then tackle them. It doesn’t work all that often.

    Just a couple of historical comments. Phil, the 1963 elections was not simply about the players versus the coach. While it was the intervention of the players at the last minute which gave the Presidency to Sherrin, Weidemann and the players only became involved in the final stages of the campaign after Kyne had broken the agreement for the coach and players to stay out of the elections. (Kyne had come out in support of Galbally whose supporters then claimed in the The Sun that the players supported Galbally)

    Stremski (“Kill for Collingwood”, Allen and Unwin, 1963) devotes a whole chapter to the 1963 elections. He describes the factionalism that developed out of the 1963 election as embracing “class, religion, region and tradition” (p.199) Once elected, Sherrin could hardly be described as a players man, and the players could hardly be described as being all powerful during the Sherrin presidency. Tom Sherrin was President when Tuddenham and Thompson went on strike over the derisive amounts that the club was paying its players. During negotiations Sherrin told Thompson “We own you” (Thompson, Len. “The other Side of the Medal” , Ironbark, 1999. p.23) and that seems to be fairly indicative of management relations with the players in Sherrin’s time.

    While the players (in particular Darcy Moore’s Dad) played a role in getting rid of Tom Hafey in 1982 I would not agree with you that players have ruled the roost since 1963. For the most part in the period between 1963 and 1999 disputes between players and club officials have been resolved in favour of the officials. The more professional and commercial the club became the less power the players had (even though their remuneration grew enormously) After the McGuire regime took over both players and club members had little power. All power is pretty much in the hands of Eddie and his cronies. We haven’t had an election since 2001.

    A historical note also for Ian. Olympic Park was the home of many sports including Australian Rules before it became “one of soccer’s sacred sites.”

  14. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Thank you Elbow. Looks like the ‘Big 4’ will be in a battle to avoid bottom 4 in 2016. Can’t we just go back to the VFL? Hawthorn can stay where they are.

    Damo, good to see you too, mate. Thought it would be a positive omen bumping into you and AF at the same time. Maybe Bucks should just keep to basic structures and allow the lads to express themselves ala Bulldogs. I reckon that he doesn’t completely believe in his ability to coach and that is rubbing off on the players. The old ‘half the game is 90% mental’ might be apt here. Look forward to catching up for a chat soon.

    Ian, is it karma for Eddie and the footyfication of Olympic Park? Perhaps he should focus on how to get players who win games rather than creating facilities for already overpaid chumps to lairise in. If the Collingwood Warriors were around I’d become a member.

    WPT, I was probably a bit harsh on Howe, but I see him going in the Lynch/White direction if he doesn’t work harder and rely less on the odd mercurial cameo. If you condense his career highlights to five minutes it looks decent, but that won’t help our cause. In fairness, he had plenty of mates.

    Dugald, I’d still take Howe over Vickery and Hampson…just.

    Bucko, The name reminds me of Richie trying to be manly in ‘Happy Days’. Not sure the FIGJAM epithet is still appropriate, but he doesn’t seem to want to engage with those that challenge his authority. Good coach know how to get the best out of disparate personalities.

    AF, Always a pleasure bumping into fellow Knackers at the footy. I’m no Elbow and don’t aspire to become one anytime soon because it would mean that the Pies would produce the worst period in our history. No thanks. Prefer the Sleeper Hold anyway.

    Thanks Smokie, Has been a pretty steep decline hasn’t it? I think your Roos played Melbourne into form down in Tassie. Wouldn’t surprise me if Watts and Hogan have a party at our expense this Sunday.

    Luke, agree about Greenwood. Thought he’d be better after a full and solid pre-season. Looks really slow, but he too had plenty of friends. He needs to get in and under to get the ball out to our runners. Time to bring back your mate, Jesse White perhaps? (Kidding)

    Dips, the Saints were great, but the fact is they were on the bottom going into this one and were coming off a 5 goal game. Might have to get a dvd of that 11 goal quarter. Could be the highlight of our season!

    JD, lots to ponder and many reasonable and prescient examples in your list. Our disposal under Buckley and the leaking of soft goals to often ordinary opposition has been deplorable. I don’t get how the same team that were 8-3 and really should have beaten Hawthorn and Freo last year have lost so much confidence. Maybe Kavorkian is doing a Costanza this year and doing the opposite i.e. we start poorly and get better as the year progresses. Has been known to happen.

    Slim. definitely with you about ‘Eddie’s suffocating mentorship’. Bucks probably should have coached somewhere else first, just to get a different perspective. It’s interesting that your Hawks fell for the favourite son mythology after the success in the 80’s. The Knights-Judge-Schwab years were pretty ordinary. Suddenly Clarko comes along and after a couple of scratchy years, 4 flags in 8 seasons. Beware the allure of the favourite son.

    As always, appreciate the comments and the feedback folks. Cheers

  15. DBalassone says

    JD, I think you need to dress that comment up and do a re-post with a twitter link for the rest of the world. Re list management, you can add in our recruiting of Lynch, Young and White. Re Davoran, aside from the continual soft-tissue injuries and the like, has a side ever had 9 knee recos in a 4 year period? (i.e. Macaffer x 2, Scharenberg x 2, Ball, Toovey, Krakouer, Keefe, Ramsay).

    Dave, agreed on Heath Shaw. One of the best medium-sized defenders in the game – not to mention a great contested mark for his height. I know we got Adams in the trade, but midfielders who get 25 touches a game are a lot easier to find than good backs like Shaw. Also, what effort was made to keep Leon Davis after having one of the best seasons by a small back you will ever see? Oh, that’s right we got Marty Clarke back to fill that role.

    The Elbow is going to have some fun this year – off the top rope, Macho Man-style, I fear.

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