Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley has hailed the development of his team in the past 12 months, despite this AFL season looking like groundhog day.
They made an 8-3 start – exactly the same as last year – but the Magpies have managed only one win from their past nine games.
After several tight losses to finals teams, Collingwood fell off the cliff last Saturday when Richmond monstered them by 91 points.
“We’re so much better placed than we were 12 months ago,” Buckley said before Wednesday training.
“A lot of it’s intangible, to be honest – and things that are really hard to put into words.
“And I’m fully aware that when I say we’re in a better position, it’s really easy for people to point to the end result and say ‘well, nothing has changed at all’.
“The fact is that it has.
“We feel like we’ve come a long way in 12 months.”
Buckley will come out of contract next year and missing the finals for two years in a row means the pressure is growing.
But the Magpies’ coach says he is in no hurry to negotiate a new deal.
Buckley says he is comfortable with the discussions he has constantly with Collingwood president Eddie McGuire, chief executive Gary Pert and football director Neil Balme.
He pointed to new Carlton coach Brendon Bolton, who would be a club employee rather than go on a contract.
“Regardless of my contract status, I actually see that as probably closer to where I view it – that is, while I’m contributing positively to this organisation and the direction we’re heading, I’m in the chair,” he said of Bolton’s arrangement.
“As soon as it’s not that way, I won’t be.”
And Buckley makes it clear the points of view that interest him most about Collingwood come from within the club.
“I don’t listen to anything outside of here, because I understand that people in this building know exactly where we’re going, how we’re going about it and how effective it is or otherwise,” he said.
The challenge for Buckley is to make the team put last Saturday behind them and finish the season strongly.
On Friday night, they play Geelong, who must win to stay in finals contention.
“We’ll change some things up this week against a side who we know is going to come out really hungry,” he said.
“We’ll do some different things, we’ll have some players in different roles, but we’ll still be playing the brand of footy that we’re looking to play.
“When we do it well, it works.”
Despite kicking five goals in the VFL last weekend, Collingwood’s Mason Cox will not make his AFL debut a week after fellow American Jason Holmes at St Kilda.
“He’s not ready,” Buckley said.