Craig McRae divulges Collingwood players’ texts that left him ‘in tears’

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Craig McRae has opened up about an emotional car ride home after Collingwood’s Round 2 loss to St Kilda.

It was a defeat that consigned his reigning premier brigade to an 0-3 start to 2024, but a series of post-game text messages between the coach and his playing group may have galvanised the 2024 Pies.

Just seven days later, McRae’s Collingwood beat Brisbane by 20 points at the Gabba in the rematch of last year’s Grand Final — providing a much-needed kickstart to the club’s campaign.

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Maybe the victory can be drawn back to McRae’s post-match decision to message each of his players individually to let them know they always had his full backing.

“After we lost to St Kilda — I’ll share this — before the game I said ‘regardless of what happens in this game, guys, I’ve got your back. I’ve got you, and I’m going to be here for you, it’s unconditional’,” started McRae to SEN’s The Run Home with Andy & Gazey on Tuesday.

“So, the game finishes and clearly, we didn’t get the job done. So, on the board that’s all I wrote — ‘I got you’.

“We’ve been through a lot together, this group. A lot of shared memories. When I’m going home in the car, I thought ‘you know what, I’m going to text each player individually a bit deeper’. ‘I got you’, love hearts, ‘I’m here for you’.”

That choice to send a personalised message to each member of the playing group clearly resonated.

“Within about 10, 15 minutes of texting everybody, everybody’s texting me back at the same time, and the level of unconditional love and support this group’s got — man, there were some tears in the car, I’ll give you the tip,” McRae continued.

“It was nice, and I just wanted to make the players realise that winning is (pressure) and outcome driven. The processes of the care, support, and all the layers it takes to be successful — they’re all still there.

“Understand — and we’ll get these little layers right — but under all adversity, things do start to tear, and we don’t need to tear ourselves apart. The unconditional support is still there and real strong.”

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‘Fly’s Pies come up against Hawthorn — a fixture that’ll see them meet the familiar face of Jack Ginnivan — this Sunday to cap Gather Round.

Following the recent spotlight placed on the lack of free kicks going Ginnivan’s way at Waverley, McRae chimed in with a couple of lighthearted barbs.

“Well, I’d be disappointed if he started getting head-high free kicks for Hawthorn,” he said with a smile.

“He never got any for us. Play on.”

However, the third-year head coach couldn’t help but recall a few times on Easter Monday when tackles on Ginnivan appeared to slip high.

“Oh boy. Down the end I was watching from yesterday, I go ‘oh, that was a bit high’,” he continued.

“And then the next one was a little bit higher, then one was in the back, and he just got nothing, didn’t he? … Rules change. He literally changed the rules.”

AFL executive general manager of football Laura Kane conceded on Tuesday that a number of incidents involving Ginnivan on Monday “weren’t officiated correctly and we missed a few”.

The Magpies and Hawks will face off at Adelaide Oval this Sunday from 5:10pm AEDT — exclusive to Fox Footy (via Channel 504) and Kayo.

Originally published as Craig McRae divulges post-loss Collingwood texts that left him ‘in tears’