Collingwood coach apologises to fans after AFL flag celebration backfires brutally

Craig McRae has issued an apology in the wake of the Magpies' thrashing at the hands of the Swans.

Craig McRae has issued an apology to the 79,000 Collingwood fans who rocked up to the MCG to watch their side get thrashed by the Sydney Swans on Friday night. Playing their first game at the MCG since winning the grand final last year, the Magpies used the occasion to unfurl their 16th AFL flag in a ceremony before first bounce.

The flag was carried out onto the field for fans to see, while a number of club greats brought out the premiership trophies the Magpies have won over the years. Darcy Moore's father Peter carried out the 2023 premiership cup, which they won after beating Brisbane by just four points in the decider last September.

Collingwood, pictured here unfurling their 16th AFL flag before being smashed by the Sydney Swans.
Collingwood unfurled their 16th AFL flag before being smashed by the Sydney Swans. Image: Getty

But the Magpies' performance on Saturday night failed to live up to the occasion, and the reigning premiers slumped to 0-2 on the season after being thrashed by 33 points by the Swans. Alarm bells are ringing for McRae and his side after they were trounced by 32 points the week before against GWS.

The Swans put the result beyond doubt with plenty of time remaining, and a number of Collingwood players appeared to give up. Fans could see there was no chance of the Pies mounting a comeback, and there were plenty of empty seats around the MCG when the game finally came to an end. “They might have arrived early to see the flag unfurling, but now they’re leaving early to beat the traffic," Gerard Whateley said on SEN radio.

Craig McRae issues apology to Collingwood fans

Speaking in his post-match press conference, McRae apologised to fans after his side's performance didn't match the celebratory nature of the night. "We apologise we didn't deliver on that, but it's a long season," he said.

"Our system may be a bit clunky at the moment, so we've got to get to work on that. That's coaches and players buying into these things and we can improve these areas quickly. The numbers aren't horrendous but the way that we're moving the ball at the moment is hurting us."

Collingwood's AFL flag from 2023.
Collingwood unfurled their 16th AFL flag before the clash with Sydney.
The Magpies with their AFL flag from 2023 and trophies.
The Magpies brought out their AFL flag and trophies.

McRae failed to buy into talk the Pies are suffering from the dreaded premiership hangover. "That's probably a natural thing to say but it's not how we think," he said. "We have trust in the process and we try to get better every single day. That's been our mantra for two years and it's not going to change."

Collingwood players, pictured here after their ugly loss to the Sydney Swans.
Collingwood players look on after their ugly loss to Sydney.

Collingwood refute claims of 'premiership hangover'

McRae has plenty of experience in backing up after winning a premiership. The 50-year-old played in Brisbane's hat-trick of grand final victories under Leigh Matthews from 2001 to 2003.

"We're not standing still here and there's a lot of time to go, which gives us great belief and comfort," McRae said. "But the reality is there's a lot of hard work, too, in the coming days because we play again here in six days' time.

"We've got to get busy but we can't look too far ahead. Hangovers and doing this and not the same ... we're here to qualify. That's it. So we're in the process of qualifying and before we do any of that there's no point in talking about anything else."


McRae suggested he will likely make personnel changes as the Pies prepare to take on St Kilda on Thursday night in a second-successive six-day turnaround. Tom Mitchell will return after being managed with an ankle issue, while key forward Ash Johnson will likely be left out after kicking just one behind with five disposals across the opening two weeks of the season.

with AAP