JUST like Damien Hardwick in 2016, Nathan Buckley was under pressure to retain his job in 2017 as his team stumbled.

And just like Richmond in 2017, Collingwood beefed up its coaching department this year to support its under-fire coach. 

Blake Caracella's appointment at Richmond was heralded as a turning point for its drought-breaking premiership season.

Similarly, Justin Longmuir's arrival at Collingwood has had an immediate backroom impact on the Pies' new-found style. 

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Before the Tigers lost to West Coast on Sunday, Hardwick had said Buckley's side was the best opponent they had faced this year – even including a six-goal loss to Adelaide.

So, what's changed? 

Hardwick's assessment of the Pies' pressure and ability to hunt can be largely attributed to Longmuir's appointment as backline and team defence coach.

While Garry Hocking came in to coach stoppages, Longmuir went about building a close rapport with his defenders at the Holden Centre.

It has seen Jeremy Howe's name floated as an All Australian, Sam Murray burst onto the scene and Matt Scharenberg start to deliver on his potential.

The Pies have conceded 6.2 fewer points per game and four fewer marks inside 50 compared to last year, taking them from 13th to fourth ranked in that department.

"We focused a lot over the pre-season on defending better because naturally with the talent we've got on the list, our offence is going to take care of itself," Adam Treloar said after the Pies suffocated Essendon on Anzac Day. 

Longmuir was handed the keys to the team defence after the Pies beat Adelaide for his signature in September.

Retiring at 26 after an injury-riddled career at Fremantle, he spent time at the Dockers as a development coach before eight years as an assistant at West Coast.

Justin Longmuir in his days at West Coast. Picture: AFL Photos

Following the level-four coaching program that has landed Stuart Dew, Brendon Bolton and Simon Goodwin senior jobs, Longmuir headed east to further his career.

"Whenever there's team defence drills, he's running them and the education during pre-season was his to own," Buckley told AFL.com.au

"When we looked to staff in our coaching department, like we do with our players, we're looking for unique strengths. Justin's teaching element was very strong. 

"The backs have drawn together through him and with him. Whenever he runs a team meeting there's such clarity in what he presents and really encourages that team involvement.

"His passion around the mental preparation side of it, he's been very strong with that, with his backs in particular.

"That's been an element that's stimulated our thinking and we've learnt that through him as a coaching group."

His time at the Eagles included working with John Worsfold, Adam Simpson, Don Pyke and the late Phil Walsh.

However, the close bond he built with psychologist Neil McLean may have had just as much of a lasting legacy on his coaching.

"He worked hand in hand with the sports psychologist, working with the players training the mind to perform under pressure," former Eagle Drew Petrie told AFL.com.au.

"No doubt he's been able to apply that at Collingwood."

Longmuir's analysis caught the eye of the man regarded as the 'Godfather' of opposition strategy in the AFL.

A loyal lieutenant of Mick Malthouse and Alastair Clarkson during their premiership eras, John Wardrop returned to West Coast in 2016 and worked closely with Longmuir.

"Strategically he's very, very good, I reckon it's one of his strengths," Wardrop told AFL.com.au.

"He's good in the (coaches') box and he studies the game really closely.

"His knowledge of opposition is outstanding, and he was always looking at clubs whether we were playing them (next game) or whether they were 6-8 weeks away. "

Longmuir's former coach Chris Connolly said a sharp mind for the game has seen him excel through the ranks.

"He was a very skilled player but had an outstanding footy brain and was always one step ahead of the game," Connolly told AFL.com.au.

"I think it was a courageous move to go to Melbourne when you've got a young family. "

Earlier this month, Essendon legend Matthew Lloyd raised Caracella's name as an ideal senior assistant in a future succession plan, like Goodwin at Melbourne and John Longmire at Sydney.

At 37, if Longmuir's trajectory at Collingwood continues, clubs will be calling before his three-year deal under Buckley is done.