Collingwood coach's confession about family after stunning AFL move for Oleg Markov

Craig McRae has lifted the lid on his struggle to find the right balance for everyone at the Magpies.

Collingwood coach Craig McRae has opened up on the all-consuming nature of being an AFL head coach, admitting he hasn't found the right balance between work and family yet. McRae has been Magpies coach since 2022 and famously led the team to the flag in 2023.

The premiership success came on the same day that wife Gabrielle gave birth to baby girl Maggie - their first child together. But McRae, who has two other daughters from a previous relationship, is finding it a bit tougher in 2024.

The Magpies have been ravaged by injuries and were ninth on the ladder heading into Monday's clash with Melbourne. As well as trying to help his team recover from a disappointing start to the season, McRae revealed this week that he's struggling to find enough time for his family.

Craig McRae and wife Gabrielle, pictured here alongside Oleg Markov and his partner.
Craig McRae and wife Gabrielle, alongside Oleg Markov and his partner at a family wedding. Images: Instagram

“The biggest thing I’ve realised… is the relentless nature of the job. It doesn’t stop, it never ends,” McRae said on SEN radio. “I go to Bunnings and I’m working. I go to my daughter’s football, I’m umpiring and I’m working, it’s just the job. I’m representing, taking photos and greeting people. The job never stops."

As a club, Collingwood have made a point of highlighting that family comes first for all players and staff. It was epitomised by the fact Oleg Markov was allowed to miss the Round 11 game against Fremantle to attend his brother-in-law's wedding - a match that Collingwood ended up drawing after a fourth-quarter collapse.

Oleg Markov in action for Collingwood.
Oleg Markov (R) missed a recent Collingwood game to attend a family wedding. Image: Getty

“I definitely want my family to be first and I say that to our players as well," McRae said. “Oleg Markov goes to a wedding a couple of weeks ago. (We say) ‘family first mate, if you think this is important to you, you do it'.

“I think that stuff pays you back. We talk about winning on the scoreboard, we’ll be criticised or rewarded. That scoreboard is our feedback and the industry wants us to win.

"But I and we at Collingwood want to win at all levels, so we have better husbands, better fathers, so Oleg becomes a better brother for his brother-in-law, whatever it looks like. There’s always a line - performance versus family - I get that. But when there is an easy choice, we’re choosing family.”

Craig McRae, pictured here with wife Gabrielle and daughter Maggie.
Craig McRae with wife Gabrielle and daughter Maggie after a Collingwood game. Image: Getty

When asked if he's managed to strike a good balance between work and family, McRae responded: “No, I’m working through that. Whether escape is the right word, but finding an ability to not be the Collingwood coach for five minutes, I’m still looking for that.”


McRae announced the news of Maggie's arrival to the whole world after Collingwood won the grand final last year. After initially promising Gabrielle he wouldn't say anything, he blurted it out on stage after accepting his medal.

“I’m such a private guy, and my family are really private," he said last year. "I said ‘I’m not telling anyone today that we’ve had the baby’. And then I started to go, ‘oh maybe I’ll tell the players’. I told the players and there’s footage of me going a bit silly in the rooms.

"And then after the game I’ve told the world and she’s going, ‘what happened?’ There was a moment and (the baby news) did fill the room full of energy and a bit more joy. That was just a perfect opportunity to share it.”