In his first year in the role, Craig McRae has been voted Coach of the Year for 2022 by his peers for his work at Collingwood this season.
McRae’s squad fell by one point to Sydney in a preliminary final on Saturday, ending a remarkable season that saw the Pies go from a penultimate finish in 2021 to two wins away from a premiership in 2022.
Appearing on AFL 360, the 48-year-old was full of gratitude to his fellow coaches and said he was accepting the award on behalf of the entire football club after “a pretty incredible year”.
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“I have moments, I have moments,” he said when asked how he coped with the devastating loss after coming so close to securing a major final.
“I’m driving to work and there’s a big AFL sign with the (premiership) cup on it and it says ‘can you feel it?’ and I said ‘no, I don’t feel it!’”
“I kind of live in the moments that could have been. Our workspace is just outside the MCG and you look at it and think ‘oh god what would be there if you get there in a week’.
“I’ve got little moments, I’d walk past the gym and I normally come in on a Tuesday to do 15 minutes of arm curls, I’m going to miss that, just the routine of it all.
“This game comes to an end very suddenly and you never know when you will be in the final when it will end. This week it seems to suddenly stop. It was difficult to deal with that.”
Collingwood’s ability to take incredible come-from-behind wins was almost on display on Saturday, with the Pies coming back up to a kick against the Swans before finally falling short.
That winning spirit and drive, McRae said, was a source of immense pride.
“It’s an asset to the players, I just love their desire and their will to win,” he said.
“It’s just incredible resilience and a fight to never give up. I had a hard time looking them in the eye after the game because I was so emotional.
“It wasn’t because of disappointment, but just pride. I saw it in their faces, it was an incredible year.”
Authentic throughout the season, McRae once again offered a moment of insight into his world, thanking the AFL 360 crew for not having him in the studio before standing up to reveal he was wearing his pajama bottoms.
“I am very grateful to have been awarded this award from my colleagues,” McRae said after receiving the award.
“It is a reflection of the combined efforts of everyone involved in the football program and the wider club this season and a confirmation of their hard work and perseverance.
“I am extremely proud of our people and as a club we will continue to strive to get better every day over the pre-season and into 2023.”