COLLINGWOOD has officially appointed Craig McRae as its 16th VFL/AFL coach. 

After three premierships as a player with Brisbane, McRae joins the Pies following a glittering 15-year career as a development and assistant coach at the Pies, Lions, Richmond and Hawthorn. 

The 47-year-old beat out Richmond assistant Adam Kingsley for the role after Sydney assistant and ex-Adelaide coach Don Pyke pulled out of the process that lasted more than six weeks. 

McRae has committed to a three-year deal and issued a simple message to Pies members on Wednesday afternoon: "We want to get as good as we can, as quick as we can."

New Collingwood coach Craig McRae speaks to the media during a Zoom conference on September 1, 2021. Picture: Screenshot

"We're in the position of just getting as good as we can as quick as we can - we don't want to put a ceiling on that.

"I spoke to the playing group before and my appointment offers opportunity and possibility.

"I'm pretty pumped, let's face it, this is a significant part of my journey and it's been a long one."

He replaces Nathan Buckley in the top job and becomes just the fourth Pies' coach in the last 25 years after Buckley, Mick Malthouse and Tony Shaw. 

McRae spent 2021 as an assistant under Alastair Clarkson at Hawthorn, someone he admitted he had leant on during the Pies' coaching search. 

Before that he spent five seasons at Richmond, including steering the forwards to the 2020 premiership and coaching the club's VFL side to a flag in 2019.

"I have been fortunate to witness up close and share in some very successful programs and I know that teaching solid habits can build a winning habit of its own," McRae said.

Richmond VFL coach Craig McRae and captain Steve Morris hold up the 2019 premiership cup. Picture: Getty Images

He returns to Collingwood after five years in development across 2011-2015. 

"Success has been part of Craig's football DNA," Pies chief executive Mark Anderson said. 

Collingwood president Mark Korda said McRae was a "proven winner" and a perfect fit for the club after it "changed the direction" of its football program at the end of 2020. 

"Craig is the ideal fit for the profile of our playing list. His strengths fit our program," Korda said. McRae's ability to build relationships was also mentioned several times during the media unveiling. 

While the Pies admitted they were yet to have extended conversations with McRae's former Lions teammate Justin Leppitsch, he is expected to join the Pies' coaching panel in 2022. 

Justin Leppitsch at TIO Stadium in 2020. Picture: Getty Images

This year's caretaker coach Robert Harvey will depart the club, while fellow assistant Brenton Sanderson won't be part of the club's coaching panel next season but is in discussions about another potential role within the club. 

Midfield coach Scott Selwood remains contracted for 2022, however it remains to be seen where assistant Hayden Skipworth sits in the club's plans.  

McRae conceded he had mixed thoughts in pursuing the Pies' vacancy when first approached by head of football Graham Wright, who spearheaded the club's search alongside football director Paul Licuria. 

Wright was also part of the pitch that saw McRae moved from Punt Road to Waverley Park at the end of 2020. 

McRae identified a need to "improve the contest" for the Pies heading into next year and that he had been assessing all remaining finalists as to the best style to adapt into 2022. 

PLAYING CAREER
1995-2004 Brisbane
195 games
Premierships: 2001, 2002, 2003

COACHING CAREER
2007-2009: Richmond player development coach
2010: Brisbane development coach
2011-2015: Collingwood head of development
2016-2020: Richmond assistant coach
2017-2019: Richmond VFL head coach
2021: Hawthorn assistant coach
2022: Collingwood senior coach