When the Magpies missed out on the finals in 2017, loyal fans of the great club and footy experts were questioning whether six-time Copeland Medal winner, Nathan Buckley, was the right man to take them forward.
Following a full-scale review of the club, president Eddie McGuire handed Buckley a two-year contract extension, signalling his faith in the Pies’ favourite son.
McGuire has always been a big fan of Buckley. In 2009, he was the one who set up the succession plan for Buckley to take over then senior coach Mick Malthouse after serving a three-year apprenticeship under him.
While we are only at Round 13, Collinhwood are a real chance to play finals this year and they proved that their credentials when they defeated Melbourne on the traditional Queens Birthday clash last Monday. The Demons had won six games in a row and were playing superb footy, however the Pies spoilt their party and at the same time made a statement that they could be a serious contender in 2018 with a 42-point win.
Credit has to go to Buckley and his coaching staff for the turnaround. Big man Brodie Grundy has emerged as an All Australian contender and one of the most elite ruckman in the competition. Grundy is averaging 21 disposals, 38 hit outs, five tackles and four marks in 2018. Impressive statistics for any player, the fact he plays in the ruck the majority of the time makes it even better.
Former Giant, Will Hoskin-Elliott, has become one of the most dangerous forwards in the league and has kicked ten goals in the past two games. It takes his season tally to 27 majors from 12 matches to sit equal seventh on the Coleman Medal leaderboard.
Young gun Jaidyn Stevenson is having a brilliant debut season and is a real chance to win this year’s Rising Star Award. Stevenson has kicked 18 goals and is averaging 13 disposals, three tackles and four marks a game.
One of the best stories though is American Mason Cox. The former basketballer has taken a while to develop and he has frustrated Pies fans with undisciplined acts and inconsistent form. His five-goal, best on ground performance against the Dees was superb. Cox proved to the footy world that he can definitely play the game and could be a big part of the Pies flag chances in 2018.
Finally the other feel good story of 2018 has been the form of the former number five draft pick Jordan De Goey. He has found himself in trouble the last couple of years, but finally repaid the faith that McGuire and Buckley showed in him with a tremendous breakout year.
De Goey has kicked 16 goals, is averaging 18 disposals and three clearances a game and kicked a caree- high bag of six goals against the Saints in round nine and five against the Lions in round seven. And many teams are signing up for the out-of-contract young star.
There is still a long way to go in this season but credit has to go to McGuire for sticking by Buckley and giving him two more years. McGuire could’ve made the call to find another coach, however he knew that Buckley was the man to take the Pies back into the finals for the first time since 2013, and so far his brave decision has been justified.