In his first year in the role, Craig McRae has been voted by his peers as the 2022 Coach of the Year for his work at Collingwood this season.
McRae’s side fell to Sydney by one point in a preliminary final on Saturday, bringing to a close a remarkable season in which the Pies went from a second-last 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 “quite an incredible year”.
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“I’m having moments, I have moments,” he said when asked how he was dealing with the devastating loss after coming so close to securing a grand final spot.
“I’m driving into work and there’s a big AFL sign with the (premiership) cup on it and it says ‘are you feeling it?’ and I said ‘no I’m not feeling it!’”
“I sort of live in the what could’ve been moments. Our workspace is just outside the MCG and you look over and go ‘oh god, what could be if you’re there in a week’s time’.
“I have little moments, I walked past the gym and I normally pop in on a Tuesday to do 15 minutes of arm curls, I’m going to miss that, just the routine of it all.
“It comes to an end very suddenly this game and you just never know when you’re in the finals when it’s going to end. This week it just seems to come to a sudden stop. Coming to terms with that has been hard.”
Collingwood’s ability to notch up incredible come-from-behind victories was nearly on show once again on Saturday, with the Pies clawing back to within a kick against the Swans before ultimately falling short.
That winning mentality and drive, McRae said, was a source of immense pride.
“It’s a credit to the players, I just love their desire and their want to win,” he said.
“It’s just been incredible resilience and fight to never give up. I struggled to look them in the eyes after the game because I was so emotional.
“It wasn’t through disappointment but just the pride. I could see 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-studio before standing up to reveal he was wearing his pyjama pants.
“I‘m very grateful to receive this award by my peers,” McRae said upon 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 affirmation of their hard work and perseverance.
“I have enormous pride in our people and, as a club, we will continue to strive to be better each and every day over the course of the pre-season and into 2023.”