Buckley tips end of AFL import recruiting

Shayne Hope
Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley says AFL overseas recruitment of players like Mason Cox may suffer

Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley expects international recruiting programs will be one of the casualties of AFL cost-cutting measures.

American ruck-forward Mason Cox has been a success story under Buckley's watch, playing 59 games for the Magpies, who have also dabbled with Irish recruits.

Current rookie-listed pair Mark Keane and Anton Tohill are following in the footsteps of countryman Marty Clarke, who retired at the end of 2014.

But Buckley tipped reduced football department spending amid dire financial circumstances caused by the coronavirus pandemic could spell the end of international recruiting for the foreseeable future.

Expected reductions in AFL playing-list sizes will reduce clubs' willingness to take chances on project players, while the Category B rookie system and Next Generation Academy programs could also be in the gun.

"Appreciate your international players because it's probably going to be a lot harder for them to get into the top level and a lot harder for us to find them than it may have been in previous decades," Buckley told fans in a live chat through Collingwood's social media channels.

"We spent a bit of money to do that and maybe the industry may not be able to afford it because we have to look after first things first, but that's yet to be seen."

Cox has stayed in Melbourne during the AFL shutdown period while Keane and Tohill returned to their home country.

Buckley said the Magpies were working with AFL and government officials to get the Irish pair back to Melbourne ahead of a possible return to training this month.

"Getting the boys back from Ireland is a logistical challenge at the moment," Buckley said.

"The regulations of our Australian border control to support our fight against this virus is part of it, so we're working with the government and with the AFL to get our Irish boys back."