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The Buck Stops Here: A fighting Demon spirit, the club doing it their own way, Reid v Sanders and more


The AAMI Community Series has come and gone and Opening Round for the 2024 AFL season is just three days away.

Former Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley has put together his four takeaways in The Buck Stops Here.

Resounding positives for Melbourne and Adelaide, a widening gap for different list structures and top draft talent were on Buckley’s mind on SEN Breakfast.

Read his thoughts below.

Melbourne’s spirit against Carlton

“Once again, the scoreboard doesn’t really tell you much in practice match situations but I was interested to see how Melbourne fronted, how they connected and what energy they played with and I was really impressed by the way they went about it,” said Buckley.

“They definitely had their intercept game going, their patterns back out of that, the forwards were excellent, their was grunt inside, Max Gawn was up and about, connection inside 50 looked to have improved, but it was more so the spirit and connection, young blokes and old blokes looked like they were into it, they were energised.

“They don’t have to be for a practice match as such at that level. But if I’m a Melbourne supporter watching that, I saw positive signs. If that is what pops through the surface after the headlines of recent weeks, then I am relatively encouraged by that because there are one or two ways you can go when you’re in the situation Melbourne is in. You compound and break down, or you come together and decide you’re going to do something about it on field.”

Adelaide has got power by doing it their own way

“Their leadership group is large, there’s no doubt about it and there are some relatively obscure guys from a top-end, A-grade perspective. Lachie Murphy, Darcy Fogarty, Mitch Hinge and Wayne Milera to name four who have been included in that leadership group.

“But every single one of those guys… They all played and played their roles extremely well. Reilly O’Brien, ungainly but had a massive game. If the captain Jordan Dawson wasn’t best on ground, then O’Brien was.

“Milera and Hinge off the back were excellent, Murphy and Ben Keays as forwards kicked three between them, had lots of score involvements and lots of touches.

“Fogarty did his job and Brodie Smith was quiet.

“It’s a moment in time against no one in terms of West Coast, who are still going to struggle this year. Not household names (for Adelaide) but very effective at what they do.

“I love the way Adelaide does it. They do it differently, they don’t care about the perception and I think that’s a really powerful thing.

“They’re making really strong decisions based on really strong values, it seems.”

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Expect the mature lists to come out on top again

“You just can’t escape the reality of the established, mature lists that have got a depth of talent that are going to be in the mix.

“Collingwood, Brisbane, Port Adelaide and Melbourne for me, then you’ve got Carlton and GWS who (were) the form teams at the back end of the year who I think are extremely talented and have depth, have coped with and handled injuries last year and are probably going to be in an even better situation this year.

“They’re the lists that are strongest in terms of maturity, depth and talent and when you put them up against a North Melbourne or a Hawthorn and even West Coast – the premiership players are still there but they drop away and there’s a big gap before you get to the youth, it’s like there is a big hole in their list.

“You can’t expect lists like that, even if they get the most out of themselves, (to contend). They’re going to struggle to be top eight teams with the lists as they are. They need time to mature, they need time to develop and fill those holes before they’re going to be able to compete.”

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The circumstances for success on different draftees

“We’ve spoken about Harley Reid and the focus on him, but the conditions for success for him in his first 12-24 months are not the same as other top 10 picks.

“The one that stood out to me on the weekend was Ryley Sanders. Whilst the Western Bulldogs haven’t been able to reach what we believe is their very best, they’re still a side that has got a lot of talent and a prospective top four side. Sanders drops in, has 30 disposals, and just looks like he’s comfortable, he’s found a niche position for himself there potentially in the midfield, a position a couple of the Western Bulldogs midfielders don’t play. He steps up and puts his hand up.

“Sanders is a pick six versus Reid as a pick one. The circumstances for success around them are very different and we need to consider that when we look at the type of player we’re actually seeing.

“Reid is a winner, he’s always been a winner. I spoke to to someone who grew up around him, coached him and apparently, he just needs to be the best at everything. So this is going to be a real challenge for him to go through the next 12-24 months. How is he going to handle that?

“This might be the making of him, it might help him grow and mature and understand and not take things for granted. It might make him an even better product in 24 months but it’s going to be some hard yards.”

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