Blogging the Collingwood versus Adelaide clash at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Sunday afternoon was a treat.
An outstanding contest, thrilling finish and a result that threw a spanner in the works of the top four.
For 60 minutes the Magpies were impeccable. It was hard to believe what was occurring.
Coming off solid wins against Gold Coast and West Coast, the Pies faced a sterner test against the competition benchmarks yet blew the Crows off the park in the first half.
The Magpies tripled the score of Adelaide soon after and things almost looked certain.
Logic said the Crows would fight hard after the break and they did. It took some time to make significant inroads yet eventually they clicked into gear and seven goals in the third term had the Collingwood faithful trembling.
What happened next will be a season highlight, replayed endlessly, as people write the post mortems on 2017. Mitch McGovern’s Leo Barry-like effort with two seconds on the clock and the subsequent goal was orgasmic for independent observers, uplifting for Crows fans after a poor first half and heartbreaking for the Collingwood faithful.
The ultimate question around the future of Nathan Buckley still remains, more curious and confusing than ever before. Bluntly, the Pies have slipped down the ladder steadily since he took the reins in 2012. This is fact.
However, watching the style of play Collingwood were able to execute against Adelaide, it was clear that the team are playing for Buckley, committed to the cause and the issue of consistency appears their major flaw.
When you strip back all the peripheral commentary, media pressure and mathematical measurements of Buckley’s success or lack of it, what remains is a complete mystery.
Personally, I thought Buckley used up his lives last season. Not that I wished it upon him. The statistical downward spiral was clear. Yes, there have been horrific injury tolls yet the general trend was south.
The squad looked something of a development team early this season yet what they were able to produce Sunday afternoon was not a developing performance.
The hazy picture that arises from analysing the coach and the performance of his team is mystifying. Outstanding wins against West Coast, Sydney and Geelong are counterbalanced by nightmarish performances such as the losses to Carlton, St Kilda and Port Adelaide.
Close and heart-breaking losses to Melbourne (four points), Greater Western Sydney (three points) as well as the two points that slipped away against the Crows on Sunday, suggest that season 2017 could and should have been a little better for the club and for Buckley’s stress levels.
When you factor in all of the above, you could mount an argument that the Pies should currently sit in the eight and be on track for finals football. Collingwood fans could tack on at least two more wins, take the two points against Adelaide of which they were ‘robbed’ and claim another victory against one of the lesser lights to whom they have lost.
This is what fans do. They play the ‘if only’ game. Close losses can be over-ridden by a loyal logic that says ‘we was robbed’. Injuries excuse brave defeats where the team performs well in the face of adversity and the umpires must surely have cost us at least two games this year.
Unfortunately for Buckley and every other coach, there is only one statistic, column or measurement that really matters when all is said and done. That being, wins and losses.
However impressive the game style, however injury riddled or unfairly umpired, the cold hard facts lie at the heart of the ladder. In this scenario, Buckley should be gone. Yet something has held Collingwood back from making that call.
The fact that he is a club legend no doubt weighs heavily on the minds of those charged with the decision. Perhaps this has been harmful over the term of his reign. Would a less loved and affable member of the Collingwood community have been showed as much latitude in terms of the win loss column? Who knows?
In addition, Buckley talks a good game. He fends off media with a smile, a smirk or a blunt analysis of the situation and deflects criticisms about his future quite effectively.
Stating that it is for others to decide his fate is logical, yet expressing the opinion that he also needs to decide if he wants to be the coach of Collingwood was bold, arrogant and somewhat aggressive.
Only time will tell whether Nathan Buckley is the man to steer the Collingwood list into the future. Statistically, he doesn’t appear to be, but there is something about his fervour for the job, self-belief and ability to lift players when the chips are down that breeds an eternal hope about his abilities and the Club’s future prospects.
That is potentially, Buckley’s greatest attribute. The instilling of hope. Sunday saw another instalment of that hope. A team devoid of its captain and realistically playing for pride and pride alone, found a way to demolish a polished Crows team for 60 minutes.
It was glorious to watch and stunning, considering the missed opportunities throughout the season.
I’ve given up trying to work it out. Whether Nathan Buckley is a terrific coach, hamstrung by circumstances, injury and misfortune or a great football person a little out of his depth in a senior coaching role, still gnaws away at more astute judges than me.
What matters far more than the conjecture, was watching a Collingwood team show the form they did on Sunday afternoon at the ‘G’. I just wish they would make a decision on Buckley and tell me whether he is any good or not, because I am sick of trying to work it out.