Nathan Buckley's truth bomb for Nick Daicos amid startling stat about Collingwood gun

Daicos' defence has been put under the microscope after the Magpies' winless start to the season.

Nick Daicos has been challenged by former Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley to sharpen his tackling efficiency in the wake of criticism against the AFL gun. Footage of Daicos being shrugged off by Mitch Owens during the loss against St Kilda sent social media into meltdown, with the recriminations coming in thick and fast after Collingwood's 0-3 start to the season.

Daicos emerged as one of the competition's best ball-winners in 2023 and was an integral part of Collingwood's premiership success. However, like many of the Magpies' other key players and particularly the team's defensive unit, the 21-year-old's form has come under an intense spotlight in 2024.

Pictured left to right is Nathan Buckley and Collingwood's Nick Daicos.
Nathan Buckley has challenged Collingwood's Nick Daicos to sharpen up one particular area of his game amid criticism from AFL fans. Pic: Getty

Analysing his former side's worrying start to their flag defence, Buckley pinpointed a drop in Daicos' tackling efficiency compared to last season. Daicos averaged almost four tackles per game in 2023, but only managed two in defeats to Sydney and GWS and Buckley said like the incident with Owens showed against St Kilda, the Magpies star needs to start "sticking" more tackles.

Nathan Buckley issues challenge to Nick Daicos

“The challenge I would put to him is his tackle efficiency. He was tackling at 65 per cent last year, he’s tackling under 50 (per cent) this year,” Buckley told SEN. "So when you get your chance to tackle, you’ve got to stick (those tackles). That might be one of the little things that Craig McRae is talking about that turns into big things.

“I’ve seen and heard questions about his buy-in to the defensive elements of the game. I would encourage anyone who watches the game – watch his third, fourth, fifth efforts to go and put pressure on the opposition.” But while Buckley conceded Daicos could be stronger in his tackling, he also pointed out the 21-year-old is at his most effective when he remains on his feet and heavily involved in contests.

Pictured right, Collingwood's Nick Daicos being brushed off by Mitch Owens.
Nick Daicos was easily brushed off by St Kilda's Mitch Owens in an incident called out across the AFL world. Image: Getty/Channel 7

“He’s a ball player, he’s not the best tacker, because the best tacklers are prepared to lose their feet to stick that tackle,” Buckley added. “He’s a ball-getter, so he won’t lose his feet to stick a tackle and it means his tackle efficiency isn’t quite as good as it could be.

“I don’t know if you ever want Nick Daicos to lose his feet because one of his greatest attributes is keeping his feet to be the outnumber at the next contest. I’m going to come out in defence of Nick Daicos pre-emptively... but at the same time, I’m going to throw him a challenge because I think that there are going to be some misconceptions about the way he defends, or the way he invests in the defensive side of the game.”

David King questions attitude of Collingwood stars

Buckley's comments come amid a wave of criticism against Collingwood's defensive unit, with AFL great David King among the most forceful. The dual premiership great said motivation seemed to be lacking for the players after last year's grand final win and called out Daicos, as well as a number of other key players for their efforts so far this season.

“I don’t know if they’re the same product anymore. Because I saw so many players not really buying into absolute ‘team’,” King said on SEN radio. “And some of their better players. We’re not going to talk about the also-rans because they’re not really leading the way.

“The guys that are leading the way, Darcy Moore, Nick Daicos, Scott Pendlebury, Jack Crisp – they’re all off. They’re all off. Steele Sidebottom. There’s so many of the top-liners that have just become six-out-of-10 commodities this year. And it’s alarming, it’s shocking, I didn’t think this was going to happen. There were no signs of this through the pre-season. But they have fallen through the floor.”

The reality for Collingwood is that no club has started a season 0-3 and gone on to win the AFL flag since North Melbourne in 1975. And things don't get much easier for the Pies as they look to kickstart their season, with a blockbuster grand final rematch against the Brisbane Lions at the Gabba next up on Thursday night.