Port Adelaide games record holder Kane Cornes has suggested for Collingwood to orchestrate an “innovative” coaching succession plan involving Mark Williams and Sam Mitchell.
The Magpies are on the search for a new senior coach following Nathan Buckley’s resignation on Wednesday — with next Monday’s Queen’s Birthday clash against Melbourne being his last game in charge.
Cornes played the majority of his 300-game career under Williams at the Power. The veteran coach helped guide Port Adelaide to its first ever premiership in 2004.
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And despite the fact that he hasn’t coached at senior level since 2010, Cornes believes Williams could be the man to help nurture a rebuilding Collingwood side for the next two years before handing over the reins to Mitchell.
“I just wonder whether Mark Williams is worth ringing. Actually, I know that he‘s worth ringing,” Cornes said on SEN radio.
“I think something unique but something a bit innovative, maybe a Williams-Mitchell combination where Mark Williams at his age coaches for two years at Collingwood, helps develop the young group, they‘re in a rebuilding phase with a lot of players coming through, they’re going to go to the draft again next year, we know no one in the country is better with young players than Mark Williams.”
Since departing Port Adelaide midway through 2010, Williams has worked at GWS, Richmond and VFL club Werribee in various roles before landing at Melbourne this year as its head of development. He has been widely credited for playing a key role in helping the Demons’ surge to the top of the ladder this season.
Williams – who captained Collingwood for four years from 1983 to 1986 – has also been endorsed to become its next coach by club legend Peter McKenna. The Australian Football Hall of Famer told The Herald Sunthat Williams is the “obvious replacement” for Buckley.
“I think he is an intelligent football person and I think he would make an outstanding coach for Collingwood,” McKenna said.
“He’s a Collingwood person and I think he’d just be the perfect fit. Not that it has to be a Collingwood person and that’s not the reason I’m saying it.
“I’m saying that because I think he has enormous credentials, tremendous experience and he knows a lot about getting the most out of young players.”
In addition, the highly-rated Mitchell is widely regarded as a senior coach in waiting. Currently the coach of VFL side Box Hill, Mitchell is eventually tipped to replace Alistair Clarkson in Hawthorn’s top job.
Clarkson himself has been linked to Collingwood’s vacant coaching position — but on Thursday declared his intention to see out his contract with the Hawks until the end of 2022.
Cornes believes Mitchell serving a more official coaching apprenticeship under Williams at Collingwood to groom him for the senior role could be the best option for the club.
“To have him (Williams) there at the helm for two years with Sam Mitchell underneath him and transition that way until Sam is ready, I think is a combination that could absolutely work at Collingwood,” Cornes said.
“Yes, it‘s a little bit different, it’s something that they probably wouldn’t have considered before, but I think that’s a partnership that could work at Collingwood.”
Buckley himself was brought into the Magpies’ top job through an infamous succession plan organised by ex-president Eddie McGuire involving Mick Malthouse. Buckley worked under Malthouse in 2010 and 2011 as an assistant before taking over as senior coach in 2012.
It has been widely criticised given Collingwood was coming off a premiership and grand final in Malthouse’s final two seasons.
Against all odds, Collingwood will look to send off Buckley in style when it meets the top-of-the-table Demons at the SCG next Monday at 3.20pm EST to close out Round 13.
Magpies assistant Robert Harvey will take over Buckley as caretaker coach from next Tuesday for the remainder of the season.