Buckley buoyant about 2017 AFL season

Nathan Buckley has been forced to sell hope for most of his tenure as Collingwood coach.

Buckley remains in that same business but is upbeat 2017 will deliver a return to finals, pointing to the Magpies’ improved form in the second half of 2016.

Buckley helped Collingwood reach a preliminary final in 2012, his first year in charge.

An elimination final loss followed in 2013 and since then there’s been few results for fans to get excited about.

Notably the Magpies have won fewer and fewer games every year that Buckley has been coach.

“Probably a familiar refrain – looking forward and saying our best is good enough. Have a look at this, have a look at that and when we get these blokes back from injury,” Buckley said.

“I feel like I’ve been saying that for two or three years.

“2014 and 2015 we had really good starts and sort of limped to the line with injuries.

“This year we started poorly … now we’re standing up against top-eight teams in the back half of the year.”

Collingwood fell one goal short of an upset win over Western Bulldogs in round 21 and next face Gold Coast at Etihad Stadium on Saturday night.

Buckley implored his side to finish the season off strongly.

“We set ourselves from the bye to draw a line in the season. We were 4-8 at that point and had played inconsistently,” he said.

“We’ve grown. We’re maturing.

“We’re definitely playing better footy.

“We’ve been competitive against the best sides in the comp for the most part. We’ve got a couple of scalps.”

Buckley is unlikely to recall Travis Cloke, who booted five goals in the VFL after being dropped, and Mason Cox, who is on the cusp of returning from a shoulder injury.

“We went in with a smaller forward structure last week and we’re probably more likely to see that,” he said.

Buckley reiterated his support for Cloke, saying he expects him to be at the club in 2017, but forecast plenty of list changes.

“When you find yourself on the ladder where we are at the moment, there’s got to be changes.”

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