Collingwood have confirmed three-time Brisbane Lions premiership player Craig McRae as the AFL club’s coaching replacement for Nathan Buckley.
The Magpies on Wednesday announced McRae’s appointment on a three-year deal, becoming just the club’s third full-time coach this century, after Mick Malthouse (2000-2011) and Buckley (2012-2021).
Robert Harvey acted as Magpies caretaker coach after Buckley’s exit in June, but the former St Kilda champion has agreed to end his 10-year association with the club.
McRae served as Hawthorn’s forwards coach this year, but previously worked as an assistant at Collingwood between 2011 and 2015.
The 47-year-old’s most notable coaching achievements came at Richmond, leading the Tigers to the 2019 VFL premiership as well as working as an assistant with the AFL side for five years.
McRae is now the fifth member of the Lions’ premiership era to become a senior coach, after Chris Scott, Brad Scott, Michael Voss and Justin Leppitsch.
“I have been fortunate to witness up close and share in some very successful programs and I know that teaching solid habits can build a winning habit of its own,” McRae said.
“If we remain realistic about where we are, work hard, make smart decisions, think selflessly and understand that you can always learn from the game then we should make progress.
“The playing group that I’ve seen from afar appears to be very talented.
“Quite a few are new to the AFL and they will need nurturing but we should all — rookie or veteran — expect to be better in 2022 than we were in 2021.”
McRae’s appointment is welcome news for Collingwood after a tumultuous 12 months, which started during last year’s trade period.
In a dramatic fire sale, the Magpies traded out key players Adam Treloar, Jaidyn Stephenson and Tom Phillips in a bid to relieve salary cap pressure.
Long-serving Collingwood president Eddie McGuire resigned in February after his bungled handling of the club’s ‘Do Better’ report into racism.
Despite making the semi-finals last year, the Magpies stumbled to a 2-9 start to the season as favourite son Buckley left after the round 13 upset win of premiership favourites Melbourne.
“I think everyone was shocked because it was pretty sudden,” Harvey said of Buckley’s departure.
“That reverberated throughout the whole building and it was pretty difficult.”
Collingwood president Mark Korda hailed McRae as a person and a coach.
“Given the course we set as a club 12 months ago, which was to recalibrate the AFL program and introduce a lot of young talent over a two- or three-year period, we see it that Craig’s attributes complement our profile extremely well,” Korda said.