Craig McRae hails Matthews' AFL guidance

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Craig McRae's journey to become Collingwood's new coach has seen him work with legendary AFL leaders, including "father" figure Leigh Matthews.

The Magpies on Wednesday announced McRae as just their third coach this century, after Mick Malthouse (2000-2011) and Nathan Buckley (2012-2021).

A three-time Brisbane premiership player, McRae was put through a lengthy and arduous interview process, with his former Lions captain Michael Voss among the candidates vying for the job.

But his time spent as a player under Matthews during the Lions' golden era, followed by coaching stints with Malthouse (Collingwood), Damien Hardwick (Richmond) and Alastair Clarkson (Hawthorn), made him the Magpies' top choice.

McRae, 47, hailed Matthews' influence on his personal and professional development.

Only last week, Matthews talked up McRae's ability, calling his former Lions charge as a "coach of the modern era".

"Leigh said some kind words about me in the press, which I made sure I acknowledged," McRae said.

"I said this in the process that Leigh's like a father now; he probably won't like hearing that.

"Just such a great mentor, he's shaped me so much in my career as a player, then even just the words he said the other day.

"He texted back saying if there's anything he can help me with he said he'd be there for me.

"To be honest, a lot of my coaching stems from Leigh's principles and I think you'll see a lot of that, well the playing group will anyway."

McRae's appointment is a popular, but somewhat low-key appointment for a club that has traditionally lured the biggest name available.

Before premiership coach Malthouse and favourite son Buckley, Collingwood had Magpies legend Tony Shaw (1996-99) and Matthews (1986-95) in charge.

McRae had stints as an assistant at Richmond, Brisbane, Collingwood and Hawthorn, headlined by coaching the Tigers' reserves team to the VFL premiership in 2019.

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