It took time, but Magpies get Buckley's plan now
WILL Hoskin-Elliott had genuinely feared for Nathan Buckley's survival as Collingwood head's coach.
Going back 13 months, with Collingwood facing a fifth straight season of missing out on finals, Buckley had been facing the dreaded axe.
As a Magpies fan growing up, Hoskin-Elliott's biggest hero was Chris Tarrant because "he could take hangers", but "Bucks was obviously one of my favourite players".
The respect for the Magpies legend only increased after he enticed Hoskin-Elliott to join the black and white at the end of 2016 after five unfulfilled years at the GWS Giants, where he played just 52 games.
Hoskin-Elliott recalled all the players being "really annoyed" at their inability to execute the game plan Buckley was giving them and, in turn, putting him at risk.
"There was always concerns," the half-forward said of his coach's future. "We wanted him there, we just didn't know what was going on."
Buckley was eventually granted a reprieve, re-signed to a two-year extension - which came as a relief to his players.
"He genuinely cares about all his players," Hoskin-Elliot said.
"He's so easy to go and talk to. His door is always open."
For the players, the dark clouds that were hanging over their heads had finally cleared for the 2018 season.
"Last year we were all close, but this year I think it's gone to another level," Hoskin-Elliott said.
"We wanted to get back to the club, we wanted to train harder."
After a dubious start to the season, losing their first two games, compounded by a string of injury setbacks, the Magpies soared into premiership contention.
Having wrapped up a qualifying final berth, after a 15-7 season, they take on West Coast today at Perth's Optus Stadium.
"There's a belief at the club at the moment," Hoskin-Elliott said. "It doesn't matter who's coming in to play... we just trust and believe in them amd that they'll do what they need to do.
"It seems to be working."
Returning today for the Pies are defenders Tyson Goldsack (after rupturing his ACL in March) and Jeremy Howe (corked thigh), and star onballer Adam Treloar (hamstrings).
The forward line, meanwhile, continues to be a settled unit - if initially a patchwork quilt.
Included in it is Giants reject Hoskin-Elliott (39 goals), reformed "bad boys" Jordan de Goey (36) and Josh Thomas (35), Rising Star Jaidyn Stephenson (34), mature-aged rookie Brody Mihocek (23) and American Mason Cox (20).
"It's been an interesting one," said Hoskin-Elliott, who has benefited from completing two pre-seasons while at the Magpies after being sidelined for every one of his five at GWS.
"You would not have said myself, Stephenson, Thomas, de Goey would be the leading goalkickers. (Ben) Reid, (Alex) Fasolo, and Jamie Elliott ... you definitely would have had them in your best forward line."
But it's not about individuals at the Magpies. Hoskin-Elliott says the "unselfishness of the group" has been a highlight this year - even more so than his six-goal haul against Fremantle.
"It doesn't matter who's kicking the goals or racking up the possessions, as long as it's us doing it," he said.