Collingwood legend Nathan Buckley donned the footy boots for the first time in 16 years.
And by the seven-time All-Australian’s own admission, “it finished was the way it was always going to finish”.
Buckley on Sunday became the sixth and final AFL legend to return to local football as part of 2023 The Carlton Draft initiative, lacing up the boots for Nilma Darnum against the Catani Blues in the Ellenbank and District Football League.
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In his first game since retiring from the AFL in 2007 – following a decade and a half in coaching and the media – Buckley was hoping to inspire Nilma Darnum to its first win since June 2021.
But the Brownlow Medallist’s cameo lasted just under 10 minutes, injuring his hamstring while attempting to pick up a loose ball in the opening quarter.
Catani then rallied late, holding on to claim just its third win of the season by two points, 14.8 (92) to 13.12 (90).
“I gave them my best nine minutes and 32 seconds,” Buckley told Fox Footy expert and Draft Commissioner Jonathan Brown – who was a keen observer among the punters watching on at Darnum Recreation Reserve – post-match.
“It was almost an Eddie Betts-like front and centre (when I injured my hamstring).
“I jagged the groin on Thursday then again in the warm-up, but within five or six minutes I thought ‘that’ll be alright’ and I was starting to feel it.
“But the way it finished was the way it was always going to finish. I just would’ve liked another quarter or two.”
Buckley remained involved throughout the match, helping out the Nilma Darnum coaching staff and giving some instructions to players.
Asked cheekily by Brown if Buckley was “trying to undermine” the head coach, Buckley said: “I just wanted to support him and help him. I couldn’t do anything on the field.”
A mischievous Brown replied: “Interesting stuff. Gold Coast Suns, maybe a coaching audition went on today.”
Buckley was then asked by Brown to name a few teammates, with Buckley referencing ‘Soupy’ and ‘Wombat’ and ‘Oxley’.
A topless Oxley then joined Buckley and Brown for the interview.
“Put some clothes on … Mate, you’re looking a bit loose. A few sit-ups please mate,” Brown said.
Buckley was the last AFL great to take part in this year’s Carlton Draft.
David Mundy (Carngham Linton), Jordan Lewis (Buchan), Josh Kennedy (Murrabit), Bernie Vince (Maryborough Rovers) and Kane Cornes (Moyston Willaura) all pulled on the boots for cameos this year – with varying levels of success.
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