Craig McRae has done it again.
The 2023 Collingwood premiership coach has constantly said he wants to “bring the fans along for the ride” and he continues to lead the way in the engagement space.
WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: Craig McRae invites Collingwood fans onto the field for training.
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His latest initiative: inviting Magpie fans onto the field to watch the players train, up close and personal.
The Magpies have been running a handball game tournament throughout the pre-season, the grand final of which took place on Friday morning.
AFL journalist Jon Ralph was on the sidelines with the fans as they got rare access to the Pies’ stars.
Craig McRae invites fans onto the field to watch training. Credit: X/Jon Ralph
It comes just days after 7NEWS Melbourne’s Mitch Cleary revealed he would take a step back from the hot seat during pre-season matches to allow assistants Jordan Roughead and Hayden Skipworth to assume more responsibility.
The 50-year-old is only entering his third year leading the team but has already decided to hand over some power to upskill his assistants.
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‘Fly’ McRae will linger in the background as his two assistants take charge against North Melbourne (February 21) and Richmond (February 27) respectively.
The 33-year-old Roughead is barely 18 months into retirement but already a highly rated coach.
He was involved with Collingwood’s AFLW team while still playing in the AFL and was later in line to become Fremantle’s AFLW senior coach before deciding to stay at the Pies.
Roughead has been promoted to backline coach this year after spending the 2023 campaign as a development coach and opposition analyst.
Skipworth recently became McRae’s senior assistant and has taken over as midfield coach following a reshuffle among the coaching staff.
Craig McRae (third from left) will entrust his assistants – including Hayden Skipworth (left) – with coaching the Pies in the pre-season. Credit: Getty
The 40-year-old former Adelaide and Essendon player is seen as a future AFL senior coach.
“Hayden has shown significant growth over the last few seasons with us,” Collingwood footy boss Graham Wright said late last year.
“His promotion to senior assistant is a testament to his dedication and commitment to his coaching craft.”
Skipworth’s task of coaching the Pies will come just 11 days before McRae is back in the hot seat when Collingwood’s premiership defence formally begins in an Opening Round clash with the GWS Giants on March 9.
Meanwhile, Pies recruit Lachie Schultz said McRae had been crucial in settling him into the club.
“It’s been a tough, gruelling pre-season but Craig’s been awesome,” he told 7NEWS Melbourne.
“Endorsed my strengths as soon as I walked in the door, he’s filled me with confidence,” he said.
– With Glenn Valencich