Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley has brushed off an accusation of cowardice from AFL dual premiership ruckman Darren Jolly, blaming the player’s pain at having his career ended.
While Buckley says issues with Jolly’s body were behind the 32-year-old’s delisting, Jolly believes it had more to do with a personality clash.
Jolly has publicly labelled the coach a coward for not telling him what the ruckman believes were the real reasons.
And he added he was far from the only Collingwood player who had problems with Buckley.
“There’s a lot of players there that are in that same boat,” Jolly told Fairfax Media.
But Buckley said Jolly’s comments seemed to be his way of coping with a stage all AFL players find difficult.
“It’s the ultimate test of character and some players can handle it really well and other players don’t,” Buckley told Melbourne’s SEN radio on Thursday.
“The fact that he’s still a young man, he’s a 32-year-old man with two young girls, a family that have moved around a little bit – he’s still coming to grips with his footy mortality.
“We just need to be sensitive of that and understand that if people are hurt or haven’t got what they want, sometimes things come out.”
Jolly accused Buckley of not accepting him expressing strong opinions, something that was encouraged as part of the lauded culture of his former club Sydney.
But Buckley pointed out that Collingwood imitated the Swans’ model of letting players vote for their own leaders, and they had voted Jolly out of the leadership group last year.
The coach said when he and director of football Rodney Eade told Jolly why they were delisting him, the ruckman didn’t want to listen.
“The ears were closed pretty quickly and the conversation wasn’t a long one,” he said.
Jolly’s exit has been part of a major experience drain, with the careers of fellow premiership players Alan Didak and Ben Johnson also over, while Heath Shaw was traded to Greater Western Sydney and Dale Thomas joined Carlton as a free agent.
“We believe that we’ve made decisions based on the best interests of the footy club and who’s going to take it forward,” Buckley said.
“In the end the results will either speak for themselves or otherwise.”