Craig McRae confirmed as Collingwood coach as Harvey departs AFL club

Craig McRae has been appointed as Collingwood’s new senior coach as departing caretaker coach Robert Harvey said supporters should be excited about the AFL club’s future.

McRae, a triple premiership forward with Brisbane, was confirmed as Nathan Buckley’s successor on Wednesday, with Harvey leaving after 10 years with the Magpies.

“The success that Craig has been able to share in, as a player and a coach, and the quality of the programs he has worked in say a great deal about him,” Collingwood president Mark Korda said.

“So does his dedication to the craft of coaching. Craig has built an incredibly impressive and holistic coaching resume that says he is widely educated as a coach, one who teaches the game and develops players, builds connections, commands respect and has a sharp tactical eye. He has also coached his own teams.

“Given the course we set as a club 12 months ago, which was to recalibrate the AFL program and introduce a lot of young talent over a two or three year period, we see it that Craig’s attributes complement our profile extremely well.”

McRae has worked as an assistant at Hawthorn, Collingwood and most notably, Richmond – where he coached the Tigers’ VFL team to the 2019 flag.

“Success is the product of a process,” McRae said. “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.

“If we remain realistic about where we are, work hard, make smart decisions, think selflessly and understand that you can always learn from the game then we should make progress.”

McRae’s former Lions teammate Justin Leppistch is expected to join him in a senior position at the Magpies. Leppitsch was head coach of the Lions for three years and had two successful stints as an assistant at Richmond.

Harvey described his exit from Collingwood as a mutual decision and said he was keen for a new challenge after a decade at the club. The St Kilda legend previously worked with McRae and believes his former colleague inherits a list with a bright future, despite finishing 17th this year.

“I do think it’s exciting going forward for Craig and what he’s got to deal with and the fans should be really excited for the future,” Harvey told SEN.

McRae will be just Collingwood’s third full-time coach this century, after Mick Malthouse (2000-2011) and Buckley (2012-2021).

Harvey stated Buckley’s exit after the round 13 upset of Melbourne was difficult to handle for a lot of players.

“I think everyone was shocked because it was pretty sudden,” Harvey said. “That reverberated throughout the whole building and it was pretty difficult. It did send shock waves through the place.”

The search for a new coach began after the club parted ways with Buckley midway through the season. Buckley’s last game in charge came in the Queen’s birthday clash against Melbourne in June.

Collingwood ended the 2021 season in 17th spot, one place off the wooden spoon.