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Pies coach taking extended three-month break

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COLLINGWOOD coach Nathan Buckley has taken three months' leave and won't return to work full-time until mid-January.

Buckley's newfound powers of delegation – one of the keys to his career resurgence and the Magpies' meteoric rise this year – will be put to the test after he empowered his assistant coaches to run the Pies' pre-season campaign without him until after Christmas.

Collingwood president Eddie McGuire revealed on Melbourne radio station Triple M that Buckley had taken a leave of absence, flying out on Sunday for a family holiday in Italy.

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McGuire said the Pies coach would "come back for a little while in between" to attend to a couple of commitments before spearheading the Pies' 2019 campaign in the new year.

"You can go flat out, you can red-line it as much as you want to, but you need to get a break … It does make a huge difference," McGuire said.

McGuire's radio colleague, former Western Bulldogs captain Luke Darcy, suggested the development could "transform the whole industry".

"It's one of the great moves I've ever seen," Darcy said.

"This is a massive moment, I reckon, for AFL coaches, for the industry, for sport in general. I reckon there will be people of all industries going, 'If you can get balance, your family are happy, you're happy, you're going to perform better.'"


Buckley's extended break is richly deserved after a season in which he silenced his critics in stunning fashion, being voted by his peers as the coach of the year after lifting his team from 13th to a Grand Final, and coming within a straight kick of becoming the first man to win Brownlow, Norm Smith and Jock McHale medals.

Equally inspirational was the way in which the Pies coach sparked the revival.

Lucky to avoid the sack last year after four successive seasons without finals, Buckley heeded the feedback that emerged from the club's full-scale review and set about changing his coaching style and demeanour.

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The intense, micromanaging perfectionist loosened up a little and transformed himself into an ultra-positive mentor, injecting more fun into the program, shifting his focus from rectifying weaknesses to celebrating strengths, and placing more trust in those around him.

Pies midfielder Adam Treloar said recently Buckley had returned to the fun-loving but professional style that had been a hallmark of his stint as coach of the Vic Country under-16s in 2009.

It was a difficult journey of self-discovery but a fruitful one, with Buckley building more meaningful relationships with his players and masterminding the Magpies' unexpected leap up the ladder.

The renewed caring-and-sharing culture and the clarity of the new Collingwood on-field system enabled the Magpies to overcome numerous hurdles: an 0-2 start, a potentially crippling injury toll, a late-season positive drug test for youngster Sam Murray, the tragic death of Travis Varcoe's sister Maggie before the finals, and a qualifying final loss to West Coast in Perth.

Through it all, Buckley instilled enormous belief in his players, defender Jeremy Howe said.

"In the back half of the year 'Bucks' started using language like, 'We are enough. And we are good enough. To achieve what we want, it's in this room. But we have to give all of ourselves, and be all of ourselves. Be us,'" Howe said before the Grand Final.

"Once blokes started doing that, the connection within the group went to the next level. I thought, 'We are enough.'"

And so was Buckley.

In Grand Final week, McGuire declared: "There may have been someone who has made as much sacrifice (for the club) as Nathan, but there's no one who's made more."

So no one can begrudge the Pies coach an extended holiday.