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Collingwood coach's eye-opening call as Jeremy Howe responds to footage of teammates

The actions of two stars have come into sharp focus amid Collingwood's struggles.

Collingwood coach Craig McRae has made the surprise revelation that his side's disappointing 0-2 start to the AFL season is actually "a gift". The positive outlook from the Pies coach comes after premiership defender Jeremy Howe brushed off criticism about a controversial high-fiving incident involving teammates Jordan De Goey and Brayden Maynard, during last week's loss to Sydney.

The Pies pair were slammed over the incident due to the fact they were being thoroughly outplayed by the Swans at the time. Four-time premiership player Jordan Lewis took aim at De Goey and Brayden Maynard in a post-game spray after describing their effort as "lazy" and suggesting they should have been rushing back to stop Sydney's counter-attack, rather than high-fiving one another.

Collingwood coach Craig McRae and Jeremy Howe have both brushed off criticism around the reigning AFL premiers. Pic: Getty/Fox Footy
Collingwood coach Craig McRae and Jeremy Howe have both brushed off criticism around the reigning AFL premiers. Pic: Getty/Fox Footy

AFL 360's Mark Robinson discussed the contentious incident with Howe on Tuesday night, with the Collingwood star denying suggestions it was an act of arrogance from his teammates. "There’s a passage, (the Swans) went through you, they just went straight down the ground. Bang, bang, bang, (the ball) goes out wide and look at this... What is that?” Robinson asked about the incident in question. “I know clubs (and) players do it all the time, but in-play like that? Is that two players switched on, or is that two players being big-heads?”

Brayden Maynard and Jordan De Goey high-fived each other as the Swans broke downfield in the big win over Collingwood. Image: Fox Footy
Brayden Maynard and Jordan De Goey high-fived each other as the Swans broke downfield in the big win over Collingwood. Image: Fox Footy

Jeremy Howe denies teammates are 'big-heads'

Howe disputed the suggestion his teammates weren't switched on and explained that different players have different ways of engaging with one another during a game to ensure they remain focused. The Collingwood defender said any suggestion his teammates were being "big-heads" was wide of the mark.

“If you draw that conclusion, I think you can draw any conclusion by looking at a bit of footage like that," Howe said. “He might’ve been saying ‘come on mate, let’s keep on going, I need you to get back here’.

“Or it’s like, you have touch points on field — there’s ways that we communicate with one another, there’s obviously ways that we work with each other to make sure we stay engaged in the game.” Howe also refuted the notion that Collingwood were reading into their own hype off the back of last year's premiership success.

“I would say that’s clearly one of those moments and, again, without getting the context and speaking to either of those boys, the big-head type (of conclusion) ... I don’t think (the high-five) has a negative connotation,” he said. “We want to be trying to win the game at all costs. If (high-fiving is) going to make both of those boys get in the right frame of mind to keep competing, then I don’t have a problem with it at all."

Craig McRae calls tough start to season a 'gift'

The drama comes ahead of Thursday night's clash with St Kilda at the MCG, where Collingwood will be hoping to avoid a 0-3 start to the season. The Pies will already have to defy history if they're to go back-to-back in 2024, with no team winning the flag this century after losing its first two games.

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A defiant McRae says his side was ready to prove the doubters wrong, having done so last year in winning the premiership. "I do recall... last year that apparently we were no chance to win the premiership because no one had won the premiership having lost three of the last five (regular season games)," McRae said.

"There's an energy to get better, and I must admit there was an energy to get better all of last year too. So nothing's changed in there. We'll just keep working better to get better at what we're doing, and we've got work to do."

The Collingwood coach said the tough start to 2024 could help steel his side for the rest of the season and suggested it was a blessing in disguise. "I'm not sure about reality check, but it's definitely a gift," he said. "Because we get to see where we're at against good opposition and then see parts of the game that we need to improve. And I'm sure at some stage this year we'll look back at this period and go 'gee, that was an important few weeks we had as a group'."

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