Pies focus on winning, not off-field drama

All Collingwood off-field issues are being addressed, says Magpies AFL coach Nathan Buckley (R).
All Collingwood off-field issues are being addressed, says Magpies AFL coach Nathan Buckley (R).

The Collingwood "bubble" has helped the Magpies to escape intense media scrutiny in Melbourne and get through the AFL club's week from hell.

Arguably the AFL's most high-profile club, Collingwood have been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons due to a series of events.

Vice-captain Steele Sidebottom still has three matches to serve of a ban for a drunken COVID-19 protocol breach, star forward Jordan De Goey has been charged with indecent assault over a 2015 incident and club president Eddie McGuire has been criticised for perceived hypocrisy.

There are also lingering racism allegations from 2010 premiership defender Heritier Lumumba against the club which have sparked an investigation.

To top it off, the Magpies' form has dipped with an upset loss on Friday to arch-rivals Essendon.

Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley said relocating to a NSW hub ahead of Friday night's match against Hawthorn had been "really positive".

"Whilst there are issues back home for some, for most, we have probably been in a bubble in many ways so we've been able to come back to each other (and) focus on some on-field challenges that have presented themselves," Buckley told reporters.

"It might seem from the outside there's a lot going on but I would say we are addressing all of these issues."

Buckley said he hadn't spoken to Sidebottom, but didn't "anticipate significant impacts" or further repercussions for the star midfielder.

"I hope that both of the boys (Sidebottom and De Goey) are thinking about how they can contribute to the football club and become better people from their experiences, whether it's public or private," Buckley said.

McGuire, one of the game's biggest media personalities, has been particularly outspoken during the COVID-19 pandemic and has come under fire recently for comments over Sidebottom's situation.

Buckley can "understand the focus" around McGuire but says players haven't been distracted.

"Ed, as the president, is entitled the make whatever comments he wishes about the football club at any time," he said.

"He does find himself in front of a microphone or camera quite often given his role but the actual football program ... we operate quite separate to the board."

In better news for Collingwood, Buckley has confirmed key forward Will Kelly, the son of 1990 premiership player Craig, will debut against the Hawks.

Buckley has stopped short of naming a side, but Kelly's inclusion might mean out-of-form ruck-forward Mason Cox is dropped.

Australian Associated Press