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Departing Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley "lost sections of the playing group" before announcing his exit from the club, according to bombshell new reports.
Buckley and the Magpies stunned the AFL world this week after revealing that Monday's public holiday clash against Melbourne would be his last in charge of the club.
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Long-serving Pies skipper Scott Pendlebury said he and Collingwood's playing group were shocked when Buckley dropped the news 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.
“(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.
However, several reports claim some of Collingwood's players became disillusioned with the coach and his often defensive-minded game plans.
“Did he lose some players? Yes, weeks ago. But that’s not abnormal for a team down the foot of the ladder. Nor should it detract from his legacy," Fox Sports reporter Tom Morris wrote.
Morris told AFL Tonight on Wednesday that there would be mixed feelings in Collingwood's playing group about Buckley's departure.
“He certainly lost sections of the playing group throughout this year,” Morris said.
“I don’t think he was really able to harness the playing group as he would have liked.
“Some players will be relieved, some others will miss him. But broadly, I think the sentiment inside the club is that time was right, and clearly Nathan Buckley agrees with that as well.”
Buckley is bracing himself for an emotional send-off as he prepares for what will be a bizarre final match against old rivals Melbourne at the SCG after the traditional Queen's Birthday fixture.
Collingwood (3-9) registered a stirring win away to Adelaide last week but will start rank outsiders against the ladder-leading Demons (11-1) in a match moved from the MCG because of Victoria's latest COVID-19 outbreak.
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"To know that it's the last time that I do it here (at Collingwood) gives me pause for thought and it will bring up different emotions, I'm sure," Buckley said.
"But I'm just excited now to have a real crack at this week and to see how we'll go on Monday.
"I'm not expecting the players are going to find another five per cent - I'm certainly hoping that they gave everything they had last week and the week before - and I'm not a big one for milestones.
"But I'm sure it will definitely be a game that will stand out to me and one that I'll reflect on, so if we can get the four points it will be one that's even better to reflect on."
The last three Collingwood-Melbourne Queen's Birthday meetings (2017-2019) have drawn crowds of more than 70,000 at the MCG.
The annual pre-match Big Freeze slide fundraiser - in support of Neale Daniher's FightMND charity - has become almost as big a drawcard as the fixture itself.
A comparitively low crowd is expected in Sydney but Buckley is hopeful he'll still be able to bid farewell to a sizeable number of Magpies fans.
"There will be Collingwood people that will have the opportunity to be up there," Buckley said.
"I don't think the fans and Collingwood people have ever missed an opportunity to show their gratitude to me.
"I've felt that throughout my time here in many different roles.
"On the flipside, I'm the one that feels like I've got the long end of the stick in this relationship and I'm very grateful for it.
"At some stage there will be an opportunity to thank the fans ... I hope that I've been able to do that with my actions along the way also."
Collingwood CEO Mark Anderson said the club will organise an "appropriate farewell" for Buckley with members and supporters at a later date.
Anderson described former Magpies captain Buckley as a "towering figure" and "legend" of the club after he spent most of the last 27 years in black and white.
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