Collingwood gloom
Collingwood's players looking glum after their defeat by the Saints at the MCG made it a 0-3 start. Image by Morgan Hancock/AAP PHOTOS
  • Australian rules football

McRae wants less ‘cheese’ as Magpies struggle in AFL

Roger Vaughan March 22, 2024

Collingwood are serving up a most unappetising dish so far in their AFL premiership defence.

Thursday night’s upset loss to St Kilda at the MCG leaves the Magpies in a 0-3 hole and coach Craig McRae says some of their best players aren’t doing the basics properly.

He’s likened his out-of-sorts team to a tray of lasagne that has the ingredients out of kilter.

“At the end of the day, if you have too much cheese on your lasagne, it doesn’t matter, it won’t affect the result,” he said.

McRae and his lasagne
 Craig McRae was left with plenty of lasagne for thought after the Pies were devoured by the Saints. Image by Morgan Hancock/AAP PHOTOS 

“You have to get busy and do the things right. The fundamentals of the game are really important and that’s where we’ll put our energy.”

McRae left their players on their own for a few extra minutes after Thursday night’s loss to let them stew on what had happened.

“You can see fundamental skills that are just sloppy, rusty, clunky,” he said.

“There are a lot of fundamental errors that we’re making, from experienced players, that you wouldn’t expect.

“We have some of our best players, and some of the most decorated players you’ve seen in the game, are somewhat … we’re all in this.

“It’s time to get busy, isn’t it.”

Steele Sidebottom and captain Darcy Moore – two heroes of last year’s premiership – were among those who looked out of sorts against the Saints in the 14.10 (94) to 12.7 (79) loss.

The Magpies were also cruelled by a 30-15 free kick count, but McRae said some of those frees against his team were justified.

“That’s a big number, isn’t it, and the crowd felt that. We love them for that,” he said.

“But some of that stuff is real. We’re tackling too high … again, that’s fundamentals.”

There will be plenty of commentary around Jack Higgins’ freak goal in the last term that steadied the Saints, given the ball appeared to be out of bounds when he had his kick.

But McRae noted Geelong’s Jeremy Cameron was probably also out of bounds when he kicked a goal against them last year, and Collingwood went on to win.

The Cats also made a 0-3 start last year in their premiership defence and missed the finals.

“That’s their story, they had their own story to tell, and ours will be different,” McRae said, referring to Geelong’s travails. 

“The reality of the competition is you have to get moving. We can’t live in this space that ‘we showed a bit more tonight and that will be enough’.”

McRae said it is not doom and gloom at Collingwood – he was rapt with Billy Frampton’s game in defence – and he’s determined that their poor start to the season will not affect morale.

“What you see in front of you is a guy who hates losing. I absolutely hate losing,” he said.

“But what you don’t see is the joy and the happiness and love and support for our players and staff.

“I have their backs … that stuff is not going to change.”