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Chasing great, consolidating, cleansing & more: Buckley’s 2024 categories for all 18 coaches


Nathan Buckley has taken an in-depth look at all 18 AFL coaches and their motivators heading into the 2024 season.

Placing each coach into a category, Buckley had those at the top as ‘Chasing Great’, whose only focus is this year’s flag. Behind them are ‘Consolidating’, the coaches looking to back up a run of success in 2023, while Buckley had three coaches in the ‘Cleansing’ category. ‘Concocting’, ‘Cajoling’, ‘Cataloguing’ and ‘Challenging’ make up the remainder of the seven categories

Check out Buckley’s thoughts on every AFL coach within their category below, via SEN’s Whateley, or listen to the podcast.

Chasing Great
Craig McRae, Chris Fagan, Jonn Longmire, Ken Hinkley

Michael Voss, Adam Kingsley, Ross Lyon

Simon Goodwin, Luke Beveridge, Adam Simpson

Chris Scott, Adem Yze

Damien Hardwick, Brad Scott, Matthew Nicks, Sam Mitchell

Alastair Clarkson

Justin Longmuir

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Chasing great

COLLINGWOOD club banner

Craig McRae

“We’ve heard in recent days, it’s not about going back to back, it’s getting back to work,” Buckley began.

“I think Collingwood needs to go back to work and it seems to me that McRae is as good as any coach placed to be able to handle this given the history he had as a player and having Leigh Matthews as coach and how he may have handled going back-to-back and winning three premierships in a row and being in four Grand Finals in a row.”

BRISBANE club banner

Chris Fagan

“I reckon Brisbane are good, they’re chasing great and obviously making a Grand Final and performing through the last two finals series I think stands as testament to that.”

SYDNEY club banner

John Longmire

“I think Longmire has put this group together, they played in a Grand Final and lost heavily two years ago, but they’ve recruited to be great, they’re not just recruiting to compete.”

PORT ADELAIDE club banner

Ken Hinkley

“I think Port Adelaide are still in the zone. While he might have been sink or swim last year, he wouldn’t have felt it that way.

“He’s contending, they think they’re contending.”


CARLTON club banner

Michael Voss

“All three of these teams, you might say they’re chasing great, in particular GWS and the Blues, but I think they’re still in the consolidation phase.

“Carlton’s bad was as bad as their good was good last year and they finished off strong, but they still need to consolidate that. Vossy’s challenge is to consolidate the second half of last year early this year with Carlton.”

GWS GIANTS club banner

Adam Kingsley

“I think Adam Kingsley has exactly the same challenge. His first year was brilliant and the GWS tsunami that nearly took all comers towards the end of 2023, his challenge is to consolidate the gains they made, the gameplan that was established and the belief in the playing group.

“I thought they played with such grit and you can achieve plenty with grit, but the talent underneath… we’ve got to give Leon Cameron credit as well.”

ST KILDA club banner

Ross Lyon

“For me, the Saints did overperform to my estimations at this time last year. I think they’ve gotten better, I think another pre-season with Ross, looking at his defensive strategies and focuses and this is his third time around… I can see a group that can bounce off half-back and turnover potentially better than any other team.

“It’s a matter of consolidating what the Saints did in the first half of last year so they can do it all of 2024.”


MELBOURNE club banner

Simon Goodwin

“It’s pretty clear. This team and this club has had plenty to think about before they even get to taking the field. Playing is going to be a relief for them, but they’re still going to be carrying some sort of weight and lag from their off-season and that is going to be challenging for the coach and coaching group.

“So the locker room needs to have the courage to be open and transparent and discuss their issues, concerns and feelings. But then you have to know when to nip that in the bud and say, ‘we’ve done all that, we’ve opened up this can of worms and we’ve heard you, but at the same time we’ve now to got to go out there and perform and come together as a group’.

“Finding that balance is a really tough coaching challenge and Simon Goodwin finds himself right in the middle of it.

“Now they have been a competitive side for four years. They’ve succeeded, maybe with some of these issues bubbling along… but maybe they get to September, it gets ratcheted up a bit and your weakest points get exposed.

“Maybe that’s where Melbourne are at and they need to find a way to make them stronger in September, if they get there this year.”


Luke Beveridge

“I think it’s internal cleansing of how they're actually going to come together to make the most of the talent available to us.

“It seems like too much has been left to Marcus Bontempelli and we haven’t seen the team really gel in the last couple of years and I think that’s where the question marks on Bevo came to fruition.

“I think he’s an exceptional coach, it’s just a matter of getting past some of the gunk that might be there from the last couple of years, cleaning the slate and being able to go full bore forward.

“That’s the cleansing that needs to take place at the Western Bulldogs. There’s been a review, trying to freshen it up, give the coach the support he needs, get him to delegate and trust a little more potentially, I’m talking without any insight… but they do have the elements of a team that can be very competitive and they’ve probably underperformed in the last couple of years.”

WEST COAST club banner

Adam Simpson

“He needs to cleanse the Eagles of their loser’s mentality. When you lose as often as they have in the last two years, it’s really hard to shake that. When you forget to win, losing becomes easy and winning becomes very hard.

“He’s probably got to cleanse them of not looking back, not carrying the baggage… he’s still got premiership players on the list… he’s got to cleanse them of the embarrassment of the last couple of years and draw the line and make sure they’re looking forward to the possibilities of their future and responsibilities of their present.”


GEELONG club banner

Chris Scott

“Geelong are in a fascinating position. I know I probably put too much weight on it, but Selwood steps out, you need a heart and soul player to step into that void… maybe Tanner Bruhn can do that, who knows. But I see Cam Guthrie as that guy and they lost both of them last year and the new injury I think hurts them.

“But can the old Cats reprise their successes and find enough energy to go again and have the young guys step up around them?

“Chris Scott, I think he’s one of the great concocters, I think he’s underrated for the premiership he got in 2011… I think he’s got as great a challenge on his hands this season as he has ever before. And I think he’ll relish it.”

RICHMOND club banner

Adem Yze

“He’s spoken really openly about it and he comes in fresh… Adem’s challenge, he does it with a blank canvas and he’s got some great pieces to put on that canvas and he’s got some young guys that are going to want to play for the coach and eke out careers for themselves.

“Tom Lynch is going to play a pivotal role in how this concoction takes place. If he has a full season, I think it helps. If he has a broken season, I think it’s really going to hurt.”


HAWTHORN club banner

Sam Mitchell

“Even though they’ve got some injury problems… I still believe that Hawthorn and Sam Mitchell has moved into the cajoling phase to say, ‘hey, we can be really good’.

“Mitchell is putting this team together and his challenge is having them believe in themselves to play more consistently at their best, because their best was pretty good.”

ESSENDON club banner

Brad Scott

“Brad Scott is doing it in his way and that is to look at cultures and behaviour. He did it with North Melbourne, he cajoled them into believing they were a finals team.

“One of the challenges there is creating an environment where the majority are doing the right thing so the outlier is the people who won’t come along, it makes those decisions quite easy and makes you stand out like a sore thumb.

“Brad’s always been really strong on that, the behaviours, getting the environment right, rewarding the right behaviours and the Scott brothers would have learnt that through Leigh Matthews, it’s become a really strong element of their coaching philosophies.”

ADELAIDE club banner

Matthew Nicks

“Matthew Nicks is yet to do it. He showed that Adelaide – I think – are doing it a different way. You look at their team, their leadership group, and you don’t see the names jump off the page. I think Adelaide did it by being a great team.

“So I think theirs is a little more understated with the way they’re going about it. Whether it brings benefits, we’ll find out. But Adelaide’s best football last year was some of the best football we saw.”

GOLD COAST club banner

Damien Hardwick

“I think there’s talent there but I don’t think it’s over the top. Compared to others, I think it's probably a little above average but it’s not exceptionally high. So I think there’s still a job to do to bring that team together and they need a good run with injury.

“But most of Damien’s cajoling gets done by reputation. And then, he presents as an authentic, genuine leader which we’ve seen in all its guises at Richmond and I think that’s the way he has people believing in themselves and a plan and their accountability to that plan.

“So the cajoling aspect for him is probably a matter of time.”



Alastair Clarkson

“He is putting together a young list of talented players that may reprise what he was able to do at Hawthorn. If you remember they had four wins two years in a row and the accumulation and cataloguing of that talent became a dynasty.

“That’s a high bar to reach to go again but looking at North, looking at their young talent, it’s all about cataloguing and that’s working out where to put the pieces.

“It’s all about putting pieces in play for the next premiership team because that is the way Clarko operates.”


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Justin Longmuir

“He’s doing all of the above. He’s having to do a bit of cleansing, a bit of cajoling, he’s going to concoct, he’s going to do all of that and there might even be a bit of consolidation because some of their best football in 2023 was beating the best sides and then they dropped away.

“I think it’s not challenging in the terms of its going to be tough, it’s challenging in the terms that he’s going to need to challenge his coaching group to challenge his players to find their best more often and be more consistent.

“The challenging aspect is not the circumstance, it’s the verb… I see him in a category of his own in that regard.”

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