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Collingwood coach snaps back at comments from AFL legend Leigh Matthews

Craig McRae says Collingwood are fully focussed on winning back-to-back premierships.

Collingwood coach Craig McRae has defended the decision to launch a documentary - showcasing their rise to the top of the ladder in the 2023 AFL season - less than two weeks before the Magpies begin their flag defence. The Pies copped criticism from AFL legend Leigh Matthews over the move, claiming they are over-celebrating their premiership.

Matthews, who coached McRae during the Brisbane Lions' premiership three-peat, said it is "never helpful" to keep revisiting something that happened in the past. "Revisiting something that happened six months ago, to me that's never helpful," the four-time premiership coach said on 3AW this week.

Craig McRae pictured left and Leigh Matthews right
Collingwood coach Craig McRae says the Pies are fully focussed on securing back-to-back premierships, dismissing AFL legend Leigh Matthews' suggestions that a recently released documentary series is a distraction. Image: Getty

In response, McRae said while he has the ultimate respect for Matthews he insists the club is not living in the past and says they are completely focused on their 2024 campaign, which kicks off on Saturday night with a preliminary final rematch against GWS. "I've loved Leigh for a long time and played a long time under Leigh - I know how he works, he always thinks about tomorrow," McRae said on Thursday.

"I think over time I've learned to smell the roses a bit more. It's OK to be a bit different than Leigh. Huge respect for him, but I don't think anything's changed in terms of what we're doing."

Craig McRae says Collingwood is anything but complacent

After winning their first flag in more than a decade last year, McRae says the Pies are anything but complacent heading into the 2024 season. The Collingwood coach believes the narrow win over the Lions to clinch the premiership will inspire the Magpies into the future.

Collingwood's premiership win saw them join Essendon and Carlton on 16 VFL/AFL flags after their thrilling four-point victory over the Brisbane Lions. The Pies have not won back-to-back flags since 1935-36 but did come close in 2011, winning the minor premiership before losing to Geelong on grand final day.

"There's lots of stuff within the premiership that 'why would you let go' because we're going to need it again," he said. "We're going to need it for this next journey; there's things around connection, around the spirit, all these things that you want to carry with you. Cutting the cord is one thing, but bringing certain things that are required to bring with you is really important."

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 01: Magpies head coach Craig McRae and Darcy Moore the captain of the Magpies hold up the Premiership Cup during the Collingwood Magpies AFL Grand Final celebrations fan day at AIA Centre on October 01, 2023 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
Collingwood's premiership win saw them join Essendon and Carlton with 16 VFL/AFL flags after their thrilling four-point victory over the Brisbane Lions last September. (Quinn Rooney via Getty Images)

Collingwood to blood young defender Charlie Dean against GWS

Collingwood will be without veteran defender Jeremy Howe (corked calf) for their season-opener against the Giants, with McRae announcing he will give young tall Charlie Dean an opportunity in his place. "I think he would have played round one way back (in 2022)," McRae said of Dean. "The young lad's worked really hard."

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The Pies coach also confirmed running defender John Noble will be in the team to face the Giants after being one of the hard-luck stories of Collingwood's premiership win. Noble played 83 games in a row from his debut before being dropped before last year's finals series.

"He's now fitter and stronger, he's put on about four or five kilos," McRae said. "We need guys like Johnny to get us back to where we want to be."

with AAP

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