LEGENDARY coach MICK Malthouse took Collingwood from the bottom of the ladder to consecutive Grand Finals in the space of a few years, but he has revealed he was on the verge of losing his job in 2002.
"I took over Collingwood in 2000; the year before they were on the bottom and the next year we were on the second bottom," Malthouse told Dale Thomas in the Jim Beam series Shaped By The Game.
"But we'd won seven games with a lot younger side, so the hope was there.
"After the fifth game in 2002 I'd been sacked, or thereabouts. We got beaten by Carlton and I was told by 'Swanny' (CEO Greg Swann) that the board was going to move me on, but I survived that and we won the next five."
>> WATCH IN THE PLAYER BELOW: MICK MALTHOUSE AND DALE THOMAS IN PART 1 OF SHAPED BY THE GAME
Collingwood went on to storm into the 2002 Grand Final but fell short by just nine points to the mighty Brisbane Lions who won three consecutive flags from 2001-03.
>> ON DEMAND NOW: WATCH MORE SHAPED BY THE GAME EPISODES HERE
Nathan Buckley received the Norm Smith Medal for his efforts in a losing side, edging out Lions champion Michael Voss who had a herculean final term to drag his team over the line.
"We played off in 2002 with probably the most undermanned team against Brisbane that you could ever get, but we took it up to them," Malthouse said.
"The following year, to me Anthony Rocca was the heartbeat of our footy club and he got rubbed out, and that just really destroyed our chance in the Grand Final, if we had a chance because we were still playing a great Brisbane side.
"I went to the board and said this side is exhausted, we've exhausted the efforts of this side that's finished runner-up both times.
"For us to go forward, we probably need to release a lot of players and re-build."
The Magpies added Thomas and future captain Scott Pendlebury soon after and capitalised on the overhauled list, finally breaking through for a flag in 2010.
For Thomas, the connection between the players on that drought-breaking team remains special.
"Have you seen a group celebrate as often as that 2010 premiership team?" Thomas said to Malthouse.
"We had the five-year reunion, and that went so well we've done it every year since.
"I think the beauty of that group is that every time we catch up it is almost like we've gone back in time."
>> WATCH IN THE PLAYER BELOW: MICK MALTHOUSE AND DALE THOMAS IN PART 2 OF SHAPED BY THE GAME
After moving to Carlton for the 2014 season to renew ties with Malthouse, Thomas admitted that external pressures caused him to fall out of love with football for several years.
"I knew for myself it was a big move, but I justified that it was the right move." Thomas said.
"To cop the outside and external pressure, I did not give that the credit. People would for the first couple of months jump out with cameras from behind trees."
After a tough start at the Blues, Thomas rediscovered his form towards the end of his playing days and left the game in a far better place when he retired at the end of last season.
"In the end, getting to the point where I did playing some really good footy, it all becomes part of what ends up shaping you not only as a player but as a person," Thomas said.
"For those two or three years that were so hard, I'm a better person now at the end of that."