'A bit numb': Collingwood skipper breaks silence on Nathan Buckley exit

·5-min read
Scott Pendlebury and Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley are seen here chatting during a game.
Scott Pendlebury says he's been left stunned by Nathan Buckley's decision to step down as coach. Pic: Getty

Collingwood captain Scott Pendlebury says he's still trying to come to terms with coach Nathan Buckley's resignation after admitting the bombshell call has left him "numb" with shock.

The Magpies announced the decision on Wednesday in a press conference with Buckley, head of football Graham Wright and chief executive Mark Anderson.

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Buckley ended months of speculation about his future after claiming that it was his and the club's best interests to part ways - following a poor start to the season.

The 48-year-old will coach the club against Melbourne in the Queen’s Birthday clash on Monday before departing.

“Everything has its time and the club and I have reached ours,” Buckley said.

“Graham and I have been in conversation consistently in the last few months about what the path forward is for the program and what it needs to progress.

“When it came to the senior coaching role it became clear that a clean slate, for new energies and a new voice, was necessary. So that is what has been decided.

“I’ve loved every moment of my time at the club and in any role I have given my all to it. This program is full of so many great people who are committed and connected to one another absolutely.

“I’ll miss being a part of that but will always feel like a part of me is left with them. I sincerely wish all of the staff, coaches and players every success.”

Pictured here, Nathan Buckley talks to Collingwood players during an AFL match.
Nathan Buckley talks to Collingwood players during their win over Adelaide Crows. (Photo by James Elsby/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Long-serving Pies skipper Pendlebury said he was stunned to learn of Buckley's fate at training on Wednesday.

“It’s a bit of a shock, you come in to train today and that happens. It’s definitely a shock and the first time in my career that I’ve ever been through something like this before. I feel almost a little bit numb,” Pendlebury told reporters on Wednesday.

“(He) planned to have a bit of a chat with the leaders and then the timeline sped up and so (he told us) just as a full group. He spoke about (how he thinks) it is the best thing for the club, no person is bigger than the club and that it’s the right time for him to step away.

“He spoke about his gratitude for the place – he spent half his life here – and how excited he is by the future. And excited for the opportunity that he’s had as a player, as assistant coach, as a coach and everything that he’s contributed to our club.”

Pendlebury has been captain under Buckley since 2014 when he took over from Nick Maxwell.

Over that period of time the Pies have played in a grand final, a preliminary final and a semi-final, without managing to win a flag.

Seen here, Scott Pendlebury leads out his Collingwood teammates for an AFL game.
Scott Pendlebury has served as Pies captain under Buckley since 2014. Pic: Getty

The Collingwood skipper says assistant coach Robert Harvey would take the reins for the remainder of the season - after Buckley's final game in charge on Monday.

“I don’t know if I’m allowed to say but I’m going to anyway – the caretaker will be Robert Harvey. ‘Harvs’ has been Bucks’ right-hand man for a long time, so I don’t think that comes as a surprise,” he said.

AFL flag eluded Buckley as player and coach

Buckley ultimately leaves without the coveted premiership that eluded him as a champion player and senior coach.

He won the Norm Smith Medal in the first of a trio of grand final losses that he felt as a player in 2002 and 2003 - and a coach in 2018.

Agonisingly, the first defeat to Brisbane and last against West Coast were by single-figure margins.

"My coaching career has mirrored my playing career pretty closely, if I'm talking about it from my perspective," Buckley said.

"Ultimately, to not have been part of a premiership, if I reflect back to what I would've thought 20 years ago, I think I would've been absolutely gutted and shattered by it.

"I'm disappointed (but) I'm definitely not unfulfilled, because the journey itself has been tremendously fulfilling.

"Bar a kick here or there, I wouldn't change much.

"I sit here tremendously content with the work that I've done, the people that I've met, what we've been able to achieve and the way that I've gone about it probably more so."

Buckley took Collingwood to the finals in 2012-13 and survived a review of his position in 2017, before leading the Magpies to a surprise grand final in appearance 2018 after four barren years.

The Pies kicked the first five goals in the decider against West Coast but were gradually hauled in, and beaten in the dying seconds when Eagles sharpshooter Dom Sheed slotted the match-winner from deep in the forward pocket.

Preliminary final and semi-final appearances followed for Buckley's Magpies in the two years after, before a summer of turmoil preceded a dramatic fall in 2021.

A turbulent trade period, botched list management, the leaked Do Better report and long-time Buckley ally McGuire's resignation all took their toll on the club.

A 3-9 start to Buckley's 10th season in charge came against the backdrops of a boardroom power struggle for control of an embattled Collingwood and a period of chaos for the game as a whole, with the COVID-19 pandemic forcing major cutbacks across the board.

with AAP

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