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Craig McRae takes step back from coaching Collingwood in AFL pre-season matches
AFL

Craig McRae takes step back from coaching Collingwood in AFL pre-season matches

4 minutes, 23 seconds Read

Collingwood premiership coach Craig McRae will step back from coaching the Pies in their AFL pre-season matches, 7NEWS Melbourne’s Mitch Cleary has revealed.

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.

WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: Craig McRae takes step back from coaching Collingwood.

Analysis, local footy and the biggest moments, Seven and 7plus are the home of footy shows for every fan. Stream them all for free on 7plus >>

‘Fly’ McRae will linger in the background as Jordan Roughead and Hayden Skipworth 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.

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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.

Collingwood sweated through a two-hour training session on Wednesday, but Beau McCreery left the track early with an eye injury.

Australian cricket coach Andrew McDonald and Roosters NRL coach Trent Robinson were both interested onlookers while on site for a sport performance summit.

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.

Lachie Schultz is raring to go at Collingwood. Credit: Morgan Hancock/Getty Images

Tackling king supports AFL rule changes

Fremantle forward Sam Switkowski has backed the AFL’s crackdown on run-down tackles, saying his brain is what he wants to safeguard the most.

The AFL announced on Tuesday a number of rule tweaks aimed at providing further protection to players’ heads.

Any player who decides to leap in the air for a smother now has a greater responsibility to protect their opponent.

An extra focus has also been put on run-down tackles with the AFL keen to avoid incidents in which players’ heads are driven into the ground.

It comes as the AFL deals with an ongoing class action from dozens of former players against the league relating to concussion.

Switkowski is a tackling king with his ability to run down opponents a key facet of his game but the 27-year-old is fully supportive of the new rule tweaks.

“I’m all for the AFL bringing in rules to help protect players’ heads, I think it’s super important,” Switkowski told reporters on Wednesday.

“It’s a little bit hard out there because instinctively you grow up and you’re taught to bring players to ground.

“Especially as a small player, the easiest way to hold onto someone especially a big fellow is to use their momentum to take them to ground.

“So there might be more caution (in how we do it now). The brain is the most important thing, for me at least. I’d rather lose a dysfunctional body part than my brain.”

Sam Switkowski is in favour of the AFL’s clampdown on run-down tackles aimed to protect the head. (Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS) Credit: AAP

Switkowski said it was up to the chasing player to execute a better tackle.

“We never intentionally go out there and think about getting someone’s head into the ground, so it might just be a little bit more caution,” Switkowski said.

“I find it’s not too hard to (avoid driving a player’s head) into the ground, because if you are doing that you’re probably pushing them forward and it’s a good chance you’ll give away a push in the back (free kick).

“(It’s) not necessarily a technique change but probably more of a mindset change, just being a little bit more careful.

“I like to try and grab an arm or something and if you can get a holding-the-ball free kick from just making them dispose of it incorrectly through dropping the ball or something, it’s pretty effective.”

– with AAP

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