Buckley: I evolved, I’m continuing to evolve
Nathan Buckley bristles when the media boils football issues down in a headline.
But there is one snug snapshot of the Collingwood coach's extraordinary transformation.
Rewind a few years and Buckley couldn't help but be hands-on in everything.
"Three years ago I would've kicked the footy a couple of hundred times a (training) session," Buckley told Fox Footy in an exclusive interview to be aired on Monday night.
"But I would've been lucky to kick it a couple of hundred times in six months last year.
"I've got the best job in the world, I walk into our environment and I spend all my time walking around telling everyone how good they're going.
"How good is that caper?"
Buckley, 46, has taken a step back physically and a giant leap forward figuratively.
He has learned to say yes less and to observe more. A yoga retreat at the end of 2017 also embodied his coaching facelift.
"It's not sweating the small stuff," Buckley said.
"Over the last couple of years that's been a massive focus. The biggest shift for me was just ignoring the external noise.
"I don't think I did it real well in 2017, I probably tried to fight a few fights I didn't have to."
In 2019 Buckley's "mental and emotional fitness" will trump his physical fitness as he strikes a balance between family and footy.
After last year's Grand Final heartbreak, Buckley took his family to Italy on an extended break, a move which broke with coaching tradition.
"I deliberately don't structure (holidays) and that is a challenge," Buckley said.
"When you've been such a structured person for so long you want to know what your days look like.
"You walk around with your head up a little bit higher and you're looking at the sky and the trees and the birds a little bit more.
"It was all about family. About the most important part of my life, which is with the boys and with Tania."
On camera, Buckley showed off his Italian fluency - ordering a latte macchiato - while sons Jett and Ayce spent a month at an Italian-speaking school.
"That wasn't about an academic advantage," Buckley said.
"It was about lifestyle and experience and having to find a way in a different environment.
"Taking that time to actually step out of the world you know and to go and explore more of the world that you don't know. I think that's pretty important.
"Both of them recruited interpreters. Jett had a young American kid who spoke both (languages)."
At the Magpies, Buckley's development is guided by club figures.
He turns to football boss Geoff Walsh, midfield coach Robert Harvey, leadership manager Nick Maxwell, academy head Tarkyn Lockyer and captain Scott Pendlebury.
Jeremy Howe and Steele Sidebottom provide the coach with laughs while his happy and trusting player relationships allow him to interact on social media without being intrusive.
Last year the Magpies jumped from nine wins to 17.
It appeared Buckley sprinkled magic fairy dust but, like Rome, he insisted the rise wasn't built in one day.
"I evolved and I'm continuing to evolve. There was a lot of focus on my tenure in the couple of years prior," Buckley said.
"Change doesn't happen overnight. So I rile a little bit about the kneejerk change or the flick of the switch change.
"We made some shifts and there were some changes that were made between '17-18.
"But there was a lot of work done in '15-16-17 that facilitated our capacity to get the mix right and to grow.
"We've still got that challenge going into (this) year."
Uncovered: The Coaches, an 18-part special series of 30-minute interviews featuring each AFL club coach and only on FOX FOOTY this week.
The series debuts on Monday night and continues every night of the week on FOX FOOTY, channel 504 on Foxtel.
Starting on Monday night: Nathan Buckley at 6pm followed by Brendon Bolton (6.30pm) and Alan Richardson (7pm).