COLLINGWOOD coach Nathan Buckley has delivered a glowing endorsement for forward-turned-defender Darcy Moore, saying the key-position young gun has “looked exceptional” in his new role this summer.
After spending the majority of his first three AFL seasons up forward, Moore has been earmarked for a switch to defence this season, with All-Australian backman Ben Reid to play forward in, essentially, a straight on-field swap.
Buckley said some minor setbacks had seen Moore complete just “75 per cent” of the Magpies’ training program over the summer.
But the Pies coach said he’d been thrilled with what Moore had produced down back during the pre-season.
“Darcy has had a bit of a broken pre-season, but when he has trained … he’s looked exceptional behind the ball,” Buckley told Gerard Whateley on SEN.
“We’ve had him in front of the ball at times, but we’re excited by what he can bring on the field. We intend initially to play him as a key back — and he’s got his head around that, looking forward to it.”
Asked if the magnet flip had been inspired by team balance or individual growth, Buckley said it was a combination of both.
“It will be good for Darcy’s development. He’s not a shrinking violet, he wants to be in the action,” Buckley said.
“I personally have a belief that you really need to build from the back and it’s going to be important for us to win one-on-ones, both aerially and on the ground in our back-half to be able to support our defensive structures — and Darcy will be important to that.”
Richmond’s small forward brigade was a revolutionary and, ultimately, flag-defining tactic in 2017, with Jack Riewoldt successfully leading a mosquito fleet forward line.
However Buckley said he intends to make use of the club’s tall brigade — Buckley dubbed it a “competitive advantage” — and play ruckmen Brodie Grundy (202cm) and Mason Cox (211cm) in the same side.
“(Moore’s move) will be a product of how the big boys stand up upfront,” Buckley said.
“We do want to play Cox and Grundy in the same side. We feel there’s some real strengths that we have on our list in the form of those two big boys that could give us a competitive advantage.”
Buckley also backed his playing group’s decision to reappoint Scott Pendlebury as captain for a fifth AFL season, saying the star midfielder was in a “better place now to captain this side and this club than he ever has been”.
“Scott’s influence on his teammates has grown year on year, over the last three in particular,” Buckley said.
“He’s really grown as a leader, he’s understanding his influence even more. He was a great leader three years ago, but he’s a much better leader now. He’s more self-aware, he’s a dad for the first time, he’s probably happier to be harder than he was three years ago — he did a lot of his work one-on-one then and now he stands in front of the group and demands and drives this group even more.”
Unlike last year, Buckley enters the 2018 season with contract security after re-signing as Collingwood coach for a further two years.
But the club champion said it’s a notion that doesn’t consume him.
“I can honestly say that it’s not front of mind at all,” Buckley said.
“I don’t feel any less … determined to get the job done.
“There’s a great element of trust that I have in our coaching group to be able to deliver what we need to deliver. Also that has developed over the years with the playing group, in particular with the senior leadership group — and clearly deeper than that with some of the key players in our side that have a clear understanding of their impact and where we want to go.
“That gives you more confidence and more belief in what you’re doing and the test will come for us.”