Why Collingwood Magpies coach Craig McRae is the AFL’s Ted Lasso
Jack Ginnivan’s ban on illegal drugs
McRae took a parental view when Ginnivan was suspended for the first two games of the season after admitting to using drugs in a hotel toilet over the summer.
“I don’t want to go into detail about it, other than what I said to the players: I don’t have a son, we have two beautiful daughters, but I see all these young men as my sons and treat them as they are,” he said.
“When you have a son or daughter there’s an element, if they make mistakes, there’s a lot of things that you don’t condone and a lot of things that you as a parent want to hold them accountable for and I will do the same in this leadership role.
“But then there’s this element of, OK, then there has to be a level of love and support. And that’s the angle we take on Jack or one of our players. I think this goes a little bit deeper than just getting kicks, markers and handballs.
The recruitment of Dan McStay from Brisbane
It’s early preseason. A ball is kicked long down Collingwood’s forward line. Dan McStay runs to the ball, looks around and hesitates.
McRae calls out, “Dan, this is your ball.” McStay looks up at him. “Oh, I…” “No, Dan, this is YOUR ball.”
It was a dime-drop moment for McStay: He was no longer third wheel for Lions forwards Joe Daniher and Eric Hipwood. It illustrated what McRae says should make McStay a better player with the Magpies.
“We are optimistic that he will do it,” he said
“You can go through targets within 50, and he won’t get as much as Daniher and Hipwood. But he will for us. So we’re going to go through him a lot more and he’s going to get more opportunities.
“What others may not have seen in Dan is that we’re going to bring the ball differently to Brisbane, which allows him to show a lot more of his strengths and cover the ground, which we’re looking forward to.”
The Magpies’ headline trading law
It’s not an off-season in Collingwood without a riot and heartburn with the playlist.
This time Brodie Grundy was traded, Ollie Henry was homesick for Geelong and a Brownlow medalist in Tom Mitchell walked in the door while under contract from his Hawks.
“What might have been missed in all that recruiting talk, you know, ‘Collingwood came in third, now they think they’re in the window — whatever being in a window means — but they’re going to get those four or five players and then they’ We’re gonna win it,'” McRae said.
“Those decisions were made long before we won many games. If anything we were pretty confident that all the guys except Tom Mitchell would be coming halfway through the year.
“I find the newcomers exciting. I think if we got those four or five players into the final last year I think it would have been pretty exciting too.”
McRae didn’t want Ollie Henry to leave but understood why he did it. “Who knows, maybe we’ll get him back!?” he said.
Grundy’s departure ‘the best for Collingwood’
McStay’s arrival came in the same off-season as Brodie Grundy’s departure, but that was the only connection. McRae was eager to emphasize that one deal does not depend on the other.
“I would like to put on record that there was some misconception that Brodie had to leave to fit Dan McStay. It’s just not true,” he said.
McRae was an assistant coach at Collingwood when Grundy was drafted. He worked with him in developmental roles for the first five years, so the couple had a strong relationship.
“We talked for an hour about what that might look like and then the reality is I think it’s best for Collingwood Football Club that they move on. That’s where we got to but it was through a heavy heart and a compromise because I really care about you Brodie but the bottom line is we’re making decisions for what we think is best for the football club and we have that we met at that time.
Why the Magpies Targeted Mitchell
Collingwood was bottom in terms of clearance stats last season but tops the league in terms of intercept marking and possession. So what they did badly helped them become what they were elite at – winning the ball back.
But McRae knows that giving away that much ground is unsustainable.
They targeted Tom Mitchell to address his apparent weakness, which was the Brownlow medalist’s greatest strength.
“We got better towards the end of the year (on evictions) but we can’t lose as much territory on evictions as we did. I don’t think we’ll ever be the best clearance team, I’m not sure we need to be in terms of our playstyle,” McRae said.
“In the last game against Hawthorn you can see what Tom would do for guys like Jordy De Goey and Nick Daicos because he’ll get the first possession that we thought he could do for us.”
Where will Nick Daicos play?
Will Mitchell’s arrival coincide with Nick Daicos playing ball more regularly?
“Last year when we needed to win the game we just put Nick where we needed the most impact. I don’t think that’s going to change, but he’s done a lot of things in midfield, he’s increased in height. He looks more skilled to play more in midfield this year. I think you will see more, more of this.
“The biggest thing I’m aware of about Nick at the start of the year is his decision making and his ability to get the ball off defence. It’s a weapon. Most teams have one of these players, so it’s difficult for me to replace him. So when he goes out then who’s going to be this guy that’s going to do these amazing decision making kicks to get us out of D 50. Which is a critical part of the game. It means Pendles will be spending some time there.”
Darcy Moore as Captain
McRae meets monthly on Zoom with a group of coaches and managers from other sports.
The group includes Western United manager and former Socceroo John Aloisi, Australian cricket manager Andrew McDonald, Manly NRL manager Anthony Seabold and Mike Dunlop, an assistant with the Milwaukee Bucks.
They met before Christmas and the question of a leadership change arose. McRae told the group Scott Pendlebury would step down as captain.
“Andrew McDonald had just done that when Pat Cummins came on to captain and I asked his advice and he gave some great advice to take the players on the decision-making journey. Don’t just come up with an outcome, take people on the journey for the process,” McRae said.
It changed McRae’s approach and spoke to a much larger group of players.
“So now when the result is done, there’s no ripple effect of all these other things that might have come out of it. It seems Darcy has been a captain for years.
Why Bobbi Hill will light the magpies
“Bobby will light it. He will. He’s going to have moments where people will say ‘wow’ and he’s already done it in a few practice games,” McRae said of the small forward traded from the Giants.
“He looks so happy. And I’m not here to talk about his past, but he really fits into our environment and I’m excited to see what he can deliver.
“However, I am sure that what he is doing this year will be even better in the next year or years to come.”
McRae’s MCG marching madness
It’s early March at the MCG. The grandstands are full and it’s boiling. Ed Sheeran sings.
Craig McRae sits in his seat with his wife and sings along… a blanket over his knees.
“I feel the cold,” he laughed. “I saw others with a rug around me and I thought, ‘That’s a good idea.’ And Darcy (Moore) is sitting in the seat behind me on 45. I turn around and he’s taking pictures of me. I said what are you doing? and he says, “You’re wearing a rug, what are you, 80?
“But I had a sneaky bourbon under the covers and I didn’t want the captain to see me drinking in private.”
Ted Lasso would agree.
https://www.smh.com.au/sport/afl/why-collingwood-coach-craig-mcrae-is-the-ted-lasso-of-the-afl-20230310-p5cqyp.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_sport Why Collingwood Magpies coach Craig McRae is the AFL’s Ted Lasso