COLLINGWOOD has reappointed captain Scott Pendlebury and vice-captain Steele Sidebottom to lead the club back to September action.
Pendlebury will spearhead the Pies for a fifth season as part of a wider leadership group that includes Sidebottom, Jeremy Howe, Taylor Adams and Lynden Dunn.
The decision to recontract coach Nathan Buckley and reinstate Pendlebury, 30, gives the Magpies stability at the top throughout a period of change for the club.
Collingwood promoted a new head of fitness (Kevin White), has three new assistant coaches (Justin Longmuir, Garry Hocking and Matthew Boyd), a new leadership program manager (Nick Maxwell) and a new chief executive (Mark Anderson) to help break its four-year finals drought.
There club has also made a key change to its normal pre-season program by introducing ball work from the first day of summer training, in an bid to sharpen players’ ball use.
After a review into the football department last year, Collingwood admitted it could provide better support and more mentorship for its captain and coach.
Pendlebury told the Herald Sun he was honoured to lead Collingwood again in 2018 and said Maxwell’s impact on the playing group and, in particular, helping develop emerging leaders had been significant.
“The club has not sat on its hands, that’s for sure,” Pendlebury said.
“They got a lot of feedback last year and really acted on it and we had some very smart people in Pete Murphy and Geoff Walsh steering the ship on that.
“The feeling is great around the place now, but every club would probably say that at the moment, so the fact is the real test comes when the footy starts.
“But it’s been great having ‘Maxy’ back at the club because he has worked with the (GWS) Giants, and Melbourne Storm which is probably up there as one of the best clubs in the world.
“So we’ve all really been trying to tap into that knowledge and try and develop the leadership across the whole playing group.”
“We have to understand that everyone plays a role in leadership and it’s not just guys with a title.”
Collingwood started last season with the league’s smallest three-man leadership group, before adding Howe mid-year.
Sidebottom was this week renamed vice-captain after winning the best-and-fairest in a career-best season last year.
Darcy Moore, Brodie Grundy Adam Treloar, Tom Langdon, Jamie Elliott and Brayden Maynard make up the emerging leaders group.
Pendlebury said there was a lot of optimism within the group about their prospects this season.
“I’m extremely motivated to get back (to finals) but I know it’s a process. I would give anything to get back there but it doesn’t guarantee it’s going to happen,” he said.
“We have got to get the work in. And if that means our footy can get us there, great, if not, I just want to make sure we give ourselves the best chance.”
Pendlebury commended the decision to bring the footballs out earlier than normal in the pre-season, and incorporate more skills training into the conditioning work.
The five-time Copeland Trophy winner and five-time All-Australian midfielder said the Pies had to improve their kicking.
“They (balls) came out much earlier than usual. Since day one,” he said.
“It has been a little bit of a change from what we have done in the past few years and I think that has been beneficial.
“Probably the area of weakness for us has been our footy skills and stuff like that, so the balls have been out a lot earlier, and there’s been a lot of match play.
“There’s been a lot of mistakes and a lot of things we are working on, but it’s identifying that now and it’s a lot better than waiting until March. It’s been an enjoyable preseason.”