New Collingwood coach Craig McRae’s bold promise to fans

Alex ConradNCA NewsWire
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New Collingwood coach Craig McRae has made a bold declaration on what Pies fans can expect from the team once the 2022 AFL season is up and running.

McRae, a triple-premiership player with the Brisbane Lions, was officially unveiled as Nathan Buckley’s replacement on Wednesday having been signed to a three-year-deal.

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The surroundings of Collingwood aren’t exactly foreign to McRae, having spent five years as the club’s head of development.

The 47-year-old’s previous experience with the Pies will no doubt give him an insight into just what the passionate fanbase of the club expect to see on the field, and McRae plans on delivering exactly that.

“I’d like to think that we’ll play a style that the fans will be proud of,” McRae said.

“In terms of watching recent games in the finals, everyone played a little bit different. I’m sitting back and looking at the best versions of every team, seeing things we can implement in our game plan.

“I’m certain we’ll improve our contests, it’s something watching from afar I’m keen to implement.

“I want to play an exciting brand that the fans will come watch and cheer us loud.”

Aside from the style of play McRae aims to get his side producing, it was his work off the field that made him a standout candidate.

According to Collingwood president Mark Korda, the collective respect McRae has for everyone within and outside of the club was paramount to his appointment.

“Craig has built an incredibly impressive and holistic coaching resume that says he is widely educated as a coach, one who teaches the game and develops players, builds connections, commands respect and has a sharp tactical eye,” Korda said.

“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.”

When it comes to exactly how McRae builds those special relationships with his players and club officials, he issued a sharp response.

“I just be myself,” McRae said.

“Just create great relationships with respect for all people, great values, high morals.

“I respect everybody the same regardless of your status in the game or your background. I don’t particularly care.

“It’s just the person I am.”

McRae joins the Pies having spent a number of years working under the tutelage of premiership-winning coaches, such as Richmond’s Damien Hardwick and former Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson.

Clarkson was linked with the vacancy at Collingwood after it became clear his future lay elsewhere in the sport, but he will take a year off from coaching and recharge the batteries.

Having spent time as Hawthorn’s forward line coach, McRae hailed Clarkson for his mentorship as a coach and for helping him throughout the interview process for the Collingwood position.

“Yeah, he’s (Clarkson) been an enormous asset all year, particularly when the process was starting to heat up,” McRae said.

“Having worked for Clarko, I saw a whole other level of care for his players.

“And as I’ve sat here, I’m proud of the coach I’ve been and I’m always trying to evolve.

“I’m not the finished product, I want to get better.

“But watching Clarko, the way he cares about his people, just the family even. The way he embraces my young family into his life, he’s an inspiration.

“If I can be half the coach he is, I’d be really proud.”

McRae is the man tasked with ending an 11-year premiership drought, with the Pies’ last flag coming in 2010.

After a bitterly disappointing 2021 season, in which the club came second last on the ladder, McRae will have to call on every bit of his tactical nous accumulated throughout his coaching career to turn around the club on the field.

Originally published as New Collingwood coach Craig McRae’s bold promise to fans

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