CRAIG McRae taught Mason Cox how to use a football when the towering US import entered the AFL in late 2015, and now as new Collingwood coach he is re-training the near-31-year-old as part of his revamp of the Magpies.
In a wide-ranging interview with AFL.com.au, McRae outlined a significant role change for the 211cm big man, whose career was in question at the end of last season after playing just seven matches under Nathan Buckley and his temporary replacement as coach, Robert Harvey.
PLAY AFL FANTASY Pick your team NOW
"Mason came into the system and I spent six weeks with him when everyone else was on leave, and I upskilled him on some of the nuances of the game, kicks, marks and handballs and those sorts of things,” said McRae, who was a Pies assistant coach at the time of Cox’s arrival.
"Every time he misses a kick, I get blamed for it, every time he kicks a goal, I get a little head nod. It is interesting being seven-foot tall, and you play somewhat of an uncontested brand. I'm not sure if that suits him.
"I think this year we are going to kick to a lot more contests, and we will be asking Mason to get to those contests, and work hard to get the ball to ground, and if he can do that for us, he will have a role to play in our team."
Cox was re-contracted to Collingwood for one season only after McRae was locked-in as new coach late last year. He has played 76 matches and kicked 93 goals.
AFL'S 50 MVPs Cal Twomey makes the call
McRae has been excited by the pre-season and scratch-match form of Patrick Lipinski, acquired in a trade with the Western Bulldogs late last year.
"It is one of those ones I experienced when I was at Brisbane – some good players leave, because they just don't get the opportunity, which is fair enough, and the same thing happened at Richmond with the likes of Dan Butler going to other clubs with good opportunity," McRae said.
"We are lucky to have Patty in our environment. He's an elite runner. His hands around the contest really stand out. He is one of those guys who just really fits in quickly. He is a really good human. He may be one the Bulldogs may rue, we'll see, time will tell on that."
BACK IN THE MONEY Who are the AFL's million-dollar men?
Collingwood’s 'other Daicos', Josh Daicos, now entering his sixth season with the Magpies, which will be the first year for his much-hyped younger brother Nick, will effectively be given a fresh start under McRae.
"I was meeting with every player before everything got ticked off, and Josh, probably more than most, was determined to get back to showing everyone what he is capable of,” McRae said.
"He was interrupted last year with injury. He was carrying some groin issues, and he was also in and out of roles. So I asked him flat out: 'Where do you think play your best footy?'
"And he said it was on the wing. That's where we start, and it is up to him to own that, if you like. He looks really strong and fit and it is exciting what he brings to the table."