BEFORE Collingwood can properly analyse its increasingly worrying on-field situation, it needs to end its limbo state in the boardroom.
Eddie McGuire deciding to resign in February was never going to be the end of the club's many problems, and now that two months have been allowed to pass without any clear messaging on the future, uncertainty and unknown are infiltrating all facets of the Collingwood business.
Even the club's once-staunch fan base has made a statement, with Saturday night's dismal loss to GWS at the MCG being played in front of a traditionally un-Collingwood crowd of just 29,866.
Peter Murphy and Mark Korda have shared interim presidency duties since McGuire's exit. The board needs to immediately devise a permanent strategy, be it Murphy or Korda assuming the official title, or possibly fellow director Jodie Sizer. A left-field option is former AFL legal adviser and Channel Nine boss, and now investment banker, Jeff Browne. Now, he would certainly shake up operations. Whoever it is needs to sit in the main chair post-haste, as there is so much which requires repair.
The Magpies have been unable to properly control any aspect of their public messaging since their disastrous Trade Period of last year, when they chose to not only boot Adam Treloar, Jaidyn Stephenson and Tom Phillips from their list, but refused to treat Treloar and Stephenson with proper respect. That the Magpies are paying Treloar about $300,000 of his $900,000 annual salary for the next five years while he plays for premiership fancy Western Bulldogs is one of many mind-boggling scenarios that have been allowed to play out.
The fallout from the botched public presentation of the independently commissioned Do Better report into systemic racism within Collingwood operations followed that Trade Period, forcing McGuire to resign after 22 years. And now the team is 1-3 at the start of the 2021 season, with coach Nathan Buckley uncontracted beyond October 31.
Buckley's nine completed seasons in charge have seen the club finish fourth, eighth, 11th , 12th, 12th, 13th, second, fourth and sixth. He may actually be the standout best person to continue into 2022 and beyond, but until Collingwood determines its new president, that conversation cannot even start.
On the evidence presented in the four matches of 2021 – loss to Western Bulldogs, win against Carlton, and losses to Brisbane and GWS – the Magpies won't be making the finals.
Compounding the problems arising from the 30-point loss to the Giants was the knee injury to Taylor Adams. If there's been one player with whom Buckley has loved going into battle each week, it has been Adams.
He's reinvented himself many times before, Buckley, most stunningly after the 2017 season which led to a near-magic 2018, ending only in a harrowing five-point Grand Final loss to West Coast.
Buckley actually deserves better support from the highest levels of the club as he wades through the best big picture options for the remainder of 2021 – but that support, in meaningful capacity, can only come once a permanent president is appointed.
Unbeaten Dees surging towards Tigers
It's real, the Demons' surge.
It's real, because it is based on genuine stars, an old-school toughness, and system. As had been the case since the pre-season when key forwards Ben Brown and Sam Weideman were ruled out indefinitely, Melbourne had to weather a majority chunk of Sunday's game against Geelong without key back Steven May, who badly damaged the region around his eye.
No May? No problems. Jake Lever covered brilliantly, playing as an elite safety would in the NFL, reading every play coming his way and then stopping many if not most.
Christian Petracca was third in last year's Brownlow and could win it this year. He tallied 36 disposals against the Cats and was involved in 10 Demons' scores, with two goals of his own. Clayton Oliver also is compiling a fantastic season, so good that he was the first target, and Petracca the second, of the Cats' tagger Mark O'Connor.
Jack Viney is clearly finally rid of serious feet problems, and is as important as any Melbourne player in 2021. Max Gawn is tracking for a fifth All-Australian. Bayley Fritsch played the most significant match of his career and kicked four goals, Kozzy Pickett continued to frighten defenders like no one else when the ball was near.
Hawthorn awaits Melbourne next Sunday at the MCG. No reason the Dees won't be 5-0 after it. Then onto Richmond in round six. Looking forward to it already.
Skippers star to lift underdogs
LOVE it when teams win when least expected to do so.
GWS and St Kilda did so in round four, both reviving problematic seasons, and in both matches it was captains – interim, past and current - who set the tone.
Stand-in GWS skipper Toby Greene's five goals against Collingwood was single-handedly match-winning, and former captain Callan Ward was brilliant.
St Kilda's Jack Steele was arguably even more impressive in his role which led to a big comeback win against West Coast. During the week at a media conference after a bad loss to Essendon in round three, Steele said all Saints players were going to be held to account for on-field actions. It was a brave step, for there was to be no wiggle room thereafter. Of course, his own actions on an AFL field could never be questioned, and of course, he was best afield on Saturday. Every single Saint heard his message. Every single Saint followed his lead.
Sideshow Joe when Lions battle Bombers
THEY made sure to display a positive face and say all the right things, but understandably the Lions could not get out of Victoria quickly enough.
After a round one then-shock loss to Sydney at the Gabba, the Lions travelled for a round two match in Geelong. COVID-19 issues meant they stayed in Victoria until after Saturday's game against Western Bulldogs, in Ballarat.
They were gallant against Geelong, losing by a kick, equally courageous against Collingwood the week after, winning by a kick. Against the Dogs, they were OK, but ultimately a long way from securing four premiership points.
On Saturday night, they get to host Essendon at the Gabba. The game will be rightly big-time billed as Joe Daniher's first game against his old club. In reality, it is much more significant for Brisbane. Its 2021 season wasn't meant to start with a 1-3 scoreline, and a 1-4 one would make things extremely intriguing for a team which felt it was ready to reach a Grand Final.