LEIGH MATTHEWS: Is the Pies grand final documentary release a case of ‘marketing overrides coaching’?

Ben McClellan and Oliver Caffrey
The Nightly
The Roos skipper is still a chance to play in Round 1.

Releasing Collingwood’s grand final documentary two weeks before the start of the new season is the wrong move by the club, warns Australian football icon Leigh Matthews.

Matthews, considered by many as the greatest footballer ever who also coached Brisbane to a three-peat of premiership flags, writes in The Nightly digital newspaper on Monday that Collingwood’s reliving of the 2023 victory could be an unwelcome distraction for the playing group.

The former Collingwood coach asked if it was a case of “marketing overrides coaching”.

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“I found it interesting and a bit surprising to see Collingwood officially launch its 2023 Premiership documentary, Take the Steps, last week to much excitement and fanfare just before the start of the new season,” he writes

“Occasionally marketing overrides coaching but I would have argued against this taking place, you need to put the GF win behind you as much as is humanly possible because every ounce of focus needs to be on the here and now.

“Coach Craig McCrae has exhibited a genius in finding the emotional triggers to motivate his players to have the right mindset and he knows that living in the moment is especially important to a playing group when trying to repeat premiership success.”

Leigh Matthews coach of the Lions waves to the crowd during the Brisbane Lions AFL Premiership victory street parade September 30, 2003 in Brisbane, Australia.
Leigh Matthews coached the Lions to three flags in a row from 2001-03. Credit: GSP Images/AFL Photos/GSP

Matthews writes living in the moment was vital to keeping a winning team motivated.

“Back in the early 2000s the Brisbane Lions won three consecutive flags and the players from that era even now talk of a couple of simple themes that drove them. One was their ability to live in the moment and the firm understanding of the football reality of taking it all one game at a time,” he writes.

“Secondly they embraced the role playing mantra. Concentrating on the assigned role playing process of knowing your role , accepting it, performing and reviewing was something the Lions players did extremely well.”

Darcy Moore, who led the Magpies to a premiership in his first season as captain, has hailed McRae’s mantra of “evolution”.

“It’s clearly a core belief with him around coaching, which I think is really healthy for a team when you think your best footy is always ahead of you,” the star defender said at the AFL captains’ day last week.

“It’s a unique challenge having won last year, and then that really puts to the test that mentality and how well are we going to handle it (being reigning premiers).

“We’ve got to keep chasing our best footy.

“It does look different, every season there are trends, and teams cotton on to certain trends and it changes.

“We’ve got an office full of people who study the tapes and work out what is going to help us win games, and it’s going to look different (in opening round) this year to what it will in round 10 to round 20.

“Where we ended last season is not necessarily where we’re going to start from this season.”

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 30: Josh Daicos of the Magpies and Nick Daicos of the Magpies celebrates winning the premiership during the 2023 AFL Grand Final match between Collingwood Magpies and Brisbane Lions at Melbourne Cricket Ground, on September 30, 2023, in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images via AFL Photos)
Releasing the Collingwood documentary two weeks before the 2024 season was not a great move, writes Leigh Matthews. Credit: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Collingwood, who joined Essendon and Carlton with 16 VFL/AFL premierships after their thrilling four-point victory over the Brisbane Lions last September, have not won back-to-back flags since 1935-36.

They came close in 2011, securing the minor premiership, but Geelong stood in their way on grand final day.

The legendary Lou Richards declared the end of the ‘Colliwobbles’ after the Magpies’ drought-breaking flag in 1990, even holding a mock funeral at Victoria Park.

But the Magpies suffered a mighty premiership hangover in 1991, leading to a decade of misery.

Collingwood will embark on their premiership defence with the oldest list in the competition.

But as the Magpies displayed last year, and Geelong showed in 2022 when they fielded the oldest grand final team in VFL/AFL history, age is merely a number.

Dynamic but controversial forward Jack Ginnivan departed Collingwood for Hawthorn just weeks after becoming a premiership player as a 20-year-old.

But his spot inside 50 has been filled by Lachie Schultz, who left Fremantle after five seasons with the Dockers.

Ginnivan’s decision to attend a horse-racing meet at Moonee Valley the night before the grand final drew the ire of McRae, even during the glow of a premiership.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 27: Craig McRae, Senior Coach of the Magpies looks on during the 2024 AFL AAMI Community Series match between the Collingwood Magpies and Richmond Tigers at Ikon Park on February 27, 2024 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)
Collingwood coach Craig McRae. Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos/AFL Photos via Getty Images

Moore insisted Collingwood and Ginnivan were “bonded for life”, but he was also puzzled by Ginnivan’s pre-match routine.

“I couldn’t really believe it, to be honest,” Moore said.

“Certainly not what I would have done.

“It was an extraordinary decision, but Jack’s shown that he’s an extraordinary guy, so good luck to him.”

Opposition clubs have already tried to emulate Collingwood’s uncanny ability to win close games, including all three of their finals last year by seven points or less.

“’All those lessons are why we’re here now and we practise it, two years of practising scenarios,” McRae said after last year’s preliminary final win against GWS.

“Two minutes to go, kill the game, two minutes to go, we need to win, it’s rehearsed for these moments.”

Collingwood will certainly be hard to beat when the scores are tight, but will they add another weapon to their arsenal that will have rivals again playing catch-up?


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