By Jake Niall
For the first time since he was senior coach, Tony Shaw sat in the Collingwood coach’s box last Saturday and in pre-and post-game team meetings. From his vantage, it is personnel, not coaching, that is hurting the Magpies.
Shaw, who sat in on the match committee briefing to the players on Friday before their disappointing loss to Gold Coast, said he did not see anything that suggested Nathan Buckley, his former skipper, wasn’t a capable coach.
He said Buckley had been measured and composed in the meeting with the players after the game. Shaw said he had stayed in that meeting until team leaders came in for a separate meeting. “It was measured, completely under control,” he said.
“Nothing that I saw could even [make me] think about him not being able to coach,” said Shaw, who said of the coach’s box: “There was no panic, very analytical.”
Shaw was in the coach’s box and the team meetings as a part of program where former players are given the opportunity to be insiders on game day and in the days before a home game. The likes of Shane Wakelin, Leigh Brown, James Clement and more recently Paul Tuddenham, the past players’ president, have also been given that opportunity.
“It’s not up to me, but I think the bloke can coach,” Shaw said of Buckley, his key player during the 1990 premiership captain’s four-year stint as senior coach. In his final year Shaw coached out the season despite being told he would not continue as coach the following year, and prepared the team for the following season.
Shaw said the Magpies, who are 1-6 and sitting 17th, would be better with midfielder Taylor Adams and Jeremy Howe.
“I think it’s personnel and confidence at the moment,” he said. “Throw Adams in, throw Howe in ... Unfortunately, Dayne Beams, you give up two draft picks and you didn’t get any service.
“It’s all up to your personnel ... with everyone up and going, they’d be competitive with [every team].”
But while Shaw understood the decision to play all-Australian defender Darcy Moore in attack, as Buckley has chosen in recent weeks, he felt that that it was harder to play Moore forward when they were without Howe.
“With both out of the game, you’re 33 per cent down in your best defence,” he said.
Shaw said, however, that the Pies had to defend better without the ball - an echo of Buckley’s post-game comments - and that they needed to take the game on.
Shaw said this was his first return to the Collingwood coach’s box since his final game as coach, in 1999 (round 22, also the final game for the senior team at Victoria Park). He had once been in the Richmond coach’s box since then.
“They’re just not taking the game on, from my point of view,” he said
“They didn’t work hard enough probably and the opposition were good. [It has] nothing to do with the plan. You’ve got to implement the plan.”
Shaw said the loss of players during the trade period was clearly hurting and he had not picked his old team to make the finals this year.
“There’s no doubt that losing the two midfielders - [Jaidyn] Stephenson and [Adam] Treloar, it upsets your balance,” he said.
Shaw said of the difference between the coach’s box he occupied, and what he saw on Saturday: “It is football, not nuclear science.
“They’ve got computers where we had pads and pencils.”
The program of bringing past players inside the inner sanctum was organised by football department executive and 2010 premiership captain Nick Maxwell.
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Jake Niall is a Walkley award-winning sports journalist and chief AFL writer for The Age.