OPINION

Heat looks like to rise on Collingwood's Nathan Buckley

Nathan Buckley is entering the final year of his contract with Colllingwood. Photo: Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images
Nathan Buckley is entering the final year of his contract with Colllingwood. Photo: Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images

Now that long-time president Eddie McGuire has departed Collingwood, the media blowtorch is set to switch onto coach Nathan Buckley.

After a terrible loss to Geelong in a semi-final last year followed by a tumultuous off-season with star players leaving the club, the Magpies must start this season well because the knives will be out for Buckley if they don't.

Buckley was McGuire's handpicked replacement for Mick Malthouse when he decided the veteran coach's time was up, orchestrating a controversial change at the helm that proved to be clunky.

McGuire had unshakeable faith in Buckley, who was within a kick of becoming an AFL premiership coach in 2018 - denied by a freakish goal from the boundary line by West Coast midfielder Dom Sheed.

During his nine-season tenure as senior coach Buckley has copped plenty of flak at various stages, even from Collingwood supporters, but he knew the president always had his back.

The affable Buckley, 48, is in the final year of his contract and remains without an AFL premiership medal after a distinguished career as a champion midfielder and now senior coach.

"Bucks" was assistant to Malthouse in the 2010 triumph over St Kilda, and few people in football would begrudge him a flag as senior coach.

Whether the new administration exhibits the same patience and loyalty to the coach as his great mate McGuire did for so long remains to be seen.

Buckley is a smart man, and he should have a fair idea early how this is going to play out for him.

Eddie McGuire deserves respect. Photo: Mackenzie Sweetnam/Getty Images

Eddie McGuire deserves respect. Photo: Mackenzie Sweetnam/Getty Images

MCGUIRE'S GLOWING TRIBUTES WELL DESERVED

McGuire has been a polarising figure throughout his incredible career, but his massive contribution to Australian football is undeniable.

Since he announced his resignation, the tributes on his tenure at Collingwood have been glowing and well-deserved.

Given his achievements, he did not deserve to go out on a sour note.

From a personal perspective, I can only speak positively about Ed.

He has always been friendly, co-operative, engaging and happy to share his time and thoughts.

He has made mistakes, but we all do. I don't believe he is a racist and it is sad the perception and subsequent hysterical commentary about McGuire's use of the word "proud" at a media conference ultimately led to his premature demise.

He has a lot to be proud about and few have been able to match his passion, work ethic, networking and marketing skills - not only in football but in the wider community.

McGuire won't be lost to football and, once the dust settles, he should continue to serve the game in some capacity.

TENNIS' UNEVEN PLAYING FIELD

Navigating the minefield of hosting a major international sporting event in the middle of a pandemic was always going to be a massive challenge for Australian Open organisers, however it appears pre-tournament fears of an uneven playing field are eventuating.

While many were confined to their Melbourne hotel rooms during a 14-day quarantine period last month, players based in Adelaide enjoyed a far superior preparation.

Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem, Simona Halep, Naomi Osaka and Serena and Venus Williams were among the elite men and women who had the benefit of being able to train outside in South Australia.

Those players in Victoria were unable to venture outdoors, having to be content with hitting balls against windows and walls in their rooms.

So it is hardly surprising that the stars with the best preparation have shone the brightest in the opening week.

Meanwhile, several Grand Slam winners who endured the hard lockdown such as Bianca Andreescu, Victoria Azarenka, Angelique Kerber and last year's Australian Open singles champion, Sofia Kenin, made early exits.

Even with the advantage afforded her in Adelaide, Venus Williams was unable to advance past the second round, while younger sibling Serena, Halep and Osaka are through to the quarter-finals.

KYRGIOS THE GAME'S GREATEST SHOWMAN

Even though the Australian Open has proceeded through Victoria's latest lockdown, it is a shame that crowds have not been permitted at Melbourne Park.

Before spectators were banned, the biggest roars were reserved for Canberra's Nick Kyrgios at his favourite John Cain Arena.

The enigmatic Kyrgios is frustrating to watch.

At his best he can match it with the top players.

However, too often he is in a winning position and lets it slip, as he did in his third-round loss over five sets to Thiem.

Kyrgios is the game's greatest showman and, if he can harness his rare talent, he has the weapons to win a Grand Slam.

Having crowds at tennis matches again, albeit for only a few days, made for a wonderful spectacle and on-court changes have been just as positive.

Only players, chair umpires and ball kids are on the court, with the introduction of live electronic line calls for the first time in a Grand Slam tournament.

With no line judges, the court looks cleaner and play does not stop for time-consuming challenges and replays.

  • This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas
This story Heat looks set to rise on Buckley first appeared on The Canberra Times.