Nathan Charles Buckley (born 26 July 1972) is a former professional Australian rules football player, commentator and coach, best known for his time as captain of the Collingwood Football Club in the Australian Football League (AFL). He is currently the senior coach of the Collingwood Football Club.
He is listed by journalist Mike Sheahan as one of the top 50 players of all time. Buckley won the inaugural Rising Star Award, in 1993, then went on to become one of the game's elite, captaining Collingwood between 1999 and 2007, winning the Norm Smith Medal for best player afield in the 2002 Grand Final despite playing in the losing team, only the third player in history to do so, the Brownlow Medal in 2003, winning Collingwood's Best and Fairest award, the Copeland Trophy, six times and named in the Collingwood Team of the Century. Buckley was selected in the All-Australian Team seven times and captained the Australian international rules football team against Ireland.
In 2004 Buckley became an original inductee into the Collingwood Hall of Fame. He retired at the conclusion of the 2007 AFL season and became a commentator for the Seven Network. After months of speculation, the Collingwood Football Club signed Buckley as an assistant coach for seasons 2010 and 2011 and as senior coach in 2012 for three years.
Nathan Buckley was born in suburban Adelaide, South Australia on 26 July 1972. His family travelled around Australia quite frequently, and by the age of 12, Buckley had been to all major states on the Australian mainland. He grew up supporting Melbourne Football Club. However, Buckley spent the majority of his football developing years (aged around 10–17) in the Northern Territory, and thus has occasionally been regarded as a Territorian (he also played at the Ainslie Football Club in the Canberra-based ACTAFL for a season). In State of Origin he was considered of North Territory origin and was selected for a combined Queensland/Northern Territory team and The Allies team, an amalgamation of players from Northern Territory, Queensland, New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory and Tasmania.
Port Adelaide (SANFL)
Buckley's footballing talents were noticed from an early age. He joined South Australian National Football League (SANFL) club Port Adelaide where, in 1992, he won his only senior premiership as well as the Magarey Medal (the SANFL's league best and fairest), the Jack Oatey Medal (best on ground in the SANFL Grand Final), and his club best and fairest.
In the 1991 AFL Draft struggling Australian Football League (AFL) club Brisbane Bears drafted him through its Northern Territory state zone. Buckley challenged the AFL draft system and sparked controversy by initially resisting a move to Brisbane. His dreams were to play in Melbourne due to its culture in the sport, therefore felt the Bears were an undesirable career option. However AFL draft rules prevented him from playing with another AFL club and so remained in the SANFL.
Buckley signed with the Bears for the 1993 AFL season as part of a deal between Buckley and the Bears that allowed him to go to the club of his choice the following season. Brisbane hoped his time in Queensland would be long enough to change his mind. Buckley immediately demonstrated his potential, playing 20 games, kicking 21 goals and impressing with his general play. He was the inaugural winner of the Norwich Rising Star Award and finished a close second in the Bears' best-and-fairest award.
During his first season Buckley's arrangement with the Bears became common knowledge. At the end of the contract he attracted strong interest from all Melbourne-based clubs, chiefly Collingwood, Geelong and North Melbourne. However, it was Collingwood that successfully arranged a trade deal acceptable to all parties. Unbeknown to other AFL clubs and to the AFL itself, Collingwood and Brisbane had already agreed to make the trade happen. Collingwood selected ten players on its list who were "untouchable", and the Bears could take any two players outside this list, as well as the Collingwood Magpies' first round draft pick, in exchange for Buckley. The move saw Buckley move to Collingwood in exchange for Craig Starcevich, Troy Lehmann and the Magpies' first-round draft pick (no. 12, future double-premiership player Chris Scott).
Buckley was adamant that the move was the right career direction, with the belief he had more chance of winning a premiership with Collingwood. Ironically, Brisbane would beat Collingwood in two consecutive AFL Grand Finals in 2002 and 2003. In his first season with Collingwood, the Magpies were eliminated by the West Coast Eagles by two points in Perth.
From here, Buckley would be a consistent performer for Collingwood. As well as winning a Brownlow Medal in 2003, he finished in the top three twice before the turn of the century. He was also named Collingwood's Best and Fairest six times in 10 years (including one tied), as well as six consecutive years in the All-Australian Team from 1996 to 2002.
In 1999, Buckley suffered a broken jaw playing against Carlton in Round 2. He returned in Round 8 to help Collingwood to their first win of the season and their first in 13 matches. Collingwood finished the season last, only the second time in their history (the other being in 1976). Buckley also competed in the last game at Collingwood's long-time home ground Victoria Park against one of their main rivals, the Brisbane Lions.
In 1999, coach Tony Shaw made Buckley the Collingwood captain, replacing the still-active Gavin Brown who was to mentor Buckley in the role until retirement. Throughout the late 1990s/early 2000s Collingwood had several major changes in personnel. Eddie McGuire became president of club in 1998 and Mick Malthouse was appointed coach in 2000. Collingwood finishing 15th in 2000 and ninth in 2001, with Buckley starring in both seasons. In Round 2, 2001, Buckley set a record by amassing 46 disposals, the highest total since quarters were shortened to twenty minutes in 1994 AFL season, this remained the record until Round 10 2009, when surpassed by Dane Swan (48 disposals).
In 2002 Collingwood made the AFL Grand Final for the first time during Buckley's tenure at the club. In one of the great individual grand final performances captain Nathan Buckley won the Norm Smith Medal for best on ground, the first time since 1989 that a player from a losing side had won. The fact that Collingwood was so close in the end had to do with his dominance against the vaunted Brisbane midfield, including captain Michael Voss. In 2003, Buckley received his highest individual honour, the Brownlow Medal in a three-way tie with fellow South Australian born players Mark Ricciuto (Adelaide) and Adam Goodes (Sydney). The following Saturday Buckley played in his second losing grand final, with Collingwood losing to the Brisbane Lions. Buckley was his team's leading ball winner, with 24 disposals.
After perhaps the best season of his stellar career in 2003, the Magpie skipper endured a 2004 and 2005 season he would rather forget. He started the season in usual domineering fashion in the opening three rounds, but missed seven of the next eight matches with hamstring problems. When he returned, he appeared to play under duress, spending more time across half-forward or half-back. Buckley was honoured with life membership of the Collingwood Football Club in 2004.
During the 2006 season, Buckley was awarded AFL Life Membership after playing his 300th official match since his debut in 1992, comprising 267 premiership games, 24 preseason games, four state of origin games and four international rules games.
Buckley was rested twice during the season, once for the match against West Coast at Subiaco in Round 7, and again in the Round 21 clash against Carlton. At the end of the 2006 season Buckley indicated the possibility of him standing down as captain of the club, saying that James Clement might be a likely choice for the position. Clement later said he did not wish to become captain. Collingwood President Eddie McGuire played down any rumours of Buckley standing aside.
Following serious hamstring problems, Buckley played his first game of 2007 playing for the Williamstown Seagulls in the VFL on 18 August 2007. He was judged best on ground, gathering 29 possessions and kicking four goals.
He returned to the Collingwood side the following week and played in the club's two remaining home-and-away games and all three finals, including its 18-point semi-final win against West Coast in extra time, and its five-point loss against Geelong in the preliminary final where he was sitting on the bench in disappointment when the final siren sounded. Three weeks later, on 5 October 2007, Buckley announced his retirement.
After months of speculation, Buckley signed a 5-year deal with the Collingwood Football Club. He was the assistant coach for the seasons of 2010 and 2011; he then became head coach in 2012, having taken over from Mick Malthouse, initially signing for a period of three years.
Collingwood began the 2012 season shakily, losing to Hawthorn in round 1 and being thrashed by Carlton in round 3. However they recovered to win their next ten matches and finish the home-and-away season in fourth place with a record of 16-6. They were defeated by Hawthorn in the Qualifying Final before bouncing back to defeat West Coast in the Semi Final. However they lost comfortably to eventual premier Sydney in the Preliminary Final at ANZ Stadium to bring an end to the 2012 season.
2013 started poorly for the Magpies, slumping to a 5-4 record after 9 games. They couldn't quite find the consistency of previous seasons and finished the year in sixth place with a 14-8 record. They played Port Adelaide in their Elimination Final at the MCG and slumped to a shock 24-point loss, which caused Buckley to call into question the club's culture.
Buckley's contract was extended until the end of 2016 by Collingwood in early March 2014, however Collingwood produced a poor performance in round 1 and lost to 2013 grand finalists Fremantle by 70 points. They ended up missing the finals to finish 12th partly due to an injury crisis. Collingwood started the 2015 season at 3-1 as of Round 4 and a gutsy win against Essendon on Anzac Day in 100th centenary of Gallipoli landing.
Buckley was involved in the AFL "Laws of the Game" or Rules Committee until he controversially resigned.
On New Year's Eve 2002 Buckley married Tania Minnici. The couple have two sons; Jett Charles, who was born on 22 December 2006 and Ayce Dominic, who was born on 21 September 2008.
Buckley now lives in a $4m house in Toorak with his wife, children and black pug, Big.
Buckley has also moved into harness racing and is the owner of the Group One winner Hurricane Jett, a pacer named after his oldest son and trained by highly successful trainer and Collingwood supporter Jayne Davies.
On 24 September 2008, Nathan Buckley's autobiography, All I Can Be, was published in Australia by Penguin Group (Australia).
Buckley has made several appearances on the AFL Footy Show as a panelist.
He was the central character in an advertising campaign by wireless broadband provider Unwired.
Buckley signed as a commentator with the Seven Network for the 2008 AFL season, and continued commentating in 2009.
He made an appearance as a celebrity racer at the 2008 Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, in which he came second overall.
|Led the league for the season only|
|Led the league after finals only|
|Led the league after season and finals|
|Totals||Averages (per game)|
|Team||Year||Home & Away Season||Finals|
|Won||Lost||Draws||Win %||Finish||Won||Lost||Win %||Result|
|Collingwood||2012||16||6||0||72.73||4th||1||2||33.33||Lost to Sydney in Preliminary Final|
|Collingwood||2013||14||8||0||63.64||6th||0||1||0.00||Lost to Port Adelaide in Elimination Final|
Honours and achievements
|Brownlow Medal votes|
|Green / Bold = Won|
- SANFL premiership (Port Adelaide): 1992
- Magarey Medal: 1992
- Jack Oatey Medal: 1992
- Port Adelaide best and fairest (SANFL): 1992
- Brownlow Medal: 2003
- Norm Smith Medal: 2002
- All-Australian: 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000 (vc), 2001, 2003 (vc)
- Copeland Trophy: 1994 (tied with Gavin Brown), 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2003
- Alex Jesaulenko Medal: 1997
- AFLCA champion player of the year award: 2003
- Herald Sun player of the year award: 1998
- AFL Rising Star Award: 1993
- Australian representative honours in International Rules Series: 1999 (captain)
- State of Origin representative honours for the Allies: 1997
- AFL Rising Star nominee: 1993 (round 7)
- Collingwood Captain: 1999-2007
- Collingwood Team of the Century – half-back flank