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Buckley poised to join Roos

IN WHAT would surely prove the final flourish to what has been a stunning winter season for the North Melbourne Football Club, Ben Buckley now looks a near certainty to take over as that club's chief executive.

The outgoing national soccer boss and former Kangaroos vice-captain is now understood to be strongly considering returning to the fold of his traditional football code, despite seeming no chance to replace Eugene Arocca when North chairman James Brayshaw sacked the latter after a tumultuous 12 months, culminating in a disastrous weekend in Launceston in May.

But the national football landscape has shifted dramatically since then, with every code affected, and what looked to be a significant backward step for Buckley now looms as a brilliant combination of home-coming mixed with one of the greatest challenges in Australian sport. The Kangaroos are doing well but need a headline act and, dare we say it, a boost to their brand.

For North Melbourne, Buckley would be a coup. Acting chief executive Cam Vale has proved a worthy stand-in, but the big signing that Brayshaw wanted and seemed unlikely to get has now stepped forward in a perfect piece of timing. Whether Buckley lost patience with his chairman, Frank Lowy, or vice-versa or a combination of both is not clear but it was time for him to leave the world game and unfortunately for Vale and the other name or two on North's CEO shortlist, the stars have aligned.

Buckley, a former senior AFL executive under Andrew Demetriou, who was headhunted by Lowy, is understood to be departing on an annual salary of $1.3 million. North could not go near that amount but Buckley would not expect any new position to equal his current wage in the current landscape. A move back to the AFL has been mooted but seems unlikely.

Despite a lift in membership, brilliant on-field results and good early signs after a tough start where Hobart is concerned, the Kangaroos remain financially weak. But the board has already indicated it would find a bit extra to lure Buckley, and if it does not act quickly another club could beat it to the line. Changing codes in Australian football, as John O'Neill did, as David Gallop is about to do and as Gillon McLachlan has been tempted by, is a risky business. At the very least, any mistake leaves you liable to accusations of being a foreigner and in the case of the AFL, rugby league and soccer, you might as well be switching countries. The off-field business might be the same in terms of media and sponsorship, but to understand the culture of the game is such a major advantage and has proved so for Demetriou.

Buckley would be a big-picture man for North and provide an ideal gateway to a better relationship with the AFL, whose commission has harboured serious doubts about Brayshaw from the outset. The North chairman spoke lightheartedly on his Triple M radio show two nights ago about contacting Buckley during the London Olympics, but our understanding is that the talks were more serious and that Buckley gave Brayshaw every indication that his inquiries were worthwhile.

The good news for Buckley is that Brayshaw's laissez-faire demeanour would suit him as much as it frustrated Arocca. Dealing with Lowy has reportedly proved a micro-managerial nightmare, but there is no chance of that with the media-personality chairman, who famously attended that Hawthorn game in Launceston and watched from a stats box rather than press the flesh with Tasmanian politicians, corporate sponsors and the AFL.

Bad timing has dogged the Kangaroos for decades. They deserved some good fortune and Buckley is that.

Buckley is expected to hold talks with the Kangaroos as early as today and even if he chooses to take a short spell in the sun, once he has achieved a new broadcast rights deal for Australian soccer, North would be prepared to wait. Kangaroos Friday night football would prove more than just a one-off come season 2013.

31 comments so far

  • Not a North fan, nor do I like or dislike James Brayshaw, but Wilson's constant digs at him are a total bore. Give it a rest Wilson. Getting to a childish and embarrassing level for you now.

    Date and time
    August 23, 2012, 8:53AM
    • Personally I'm not keen on Caro either - but in this case the criticism is unwarranted. She seems to be actually crediting Brayshaw with having the good sense to go after Buckley - not having a go at him....

      Date and time
      August 23, 2012, 9:22AM
    • So true!!!

      Date and time
      August 23, 2012, 9:52AM
    • I read this out of interest of Ben Buckley and what he is doing next. Being a football fan (round ball) I only have a cursory interest in AFL through the office tipping comp etc I will not read another Caroline Wilson piece again, she writes about nothing more than innuendo and rumour and usually is having a hack at someone in the game she dislikes. No more time for her!

      Date and time
      August 23, 2012, 10:00AM
    • Given that not half a year ago this writer called for Brayshaw's resignation, perhaps it is time she thinks of resigning herself. She did, after all, call for Eddie's resignation and then Collingwood went on to win a flag. How about it, Caro, admit you were wrong and be like no other journalist in Australia and take reponsibility for you own words?

      Date and time
      August 23, 2012, 11:10AM
  • I was wondering when you were going to write a positive article about the Kangaroos Caroline you have been pretty quiet over the last 10 weeks. Still found a way to take another cheap shot about James Brayshaw though. It might be worth getting some new material before you become totally irrelevant. Go Kangas

    Date and time
    August 23, 2012, 9:16AM
    • Buckley was CEO of Football Federation Australia (FFA), not the national socca boss as you say. Geez, you wouldn't dare call football by it's real name would you...

      Crazy Joe Davolla
      Date and time
      August 23, 2012, 9:24AM
      • "Football" designates a game played on foot as opposed to horseback. There are at least five different codes of football in the world and the more democratic a country is, the more codes they tend to have. Caroline doesn't call soccer "football" because it would be very confusing when she is the Chief Australian FOOTBALL writer for The Age. Australian Football is the major football code in Australia, while English Association Football (soocer) is the major code in the world. It is called soccer in most countries that have mjuliple codes. That is why the last World Cup final was played at Soccer City and the Australian Soccer team is called the Socceroos. This attempt to call soccer "football" smacks of fascism and totalitarianism - you will do what I say!!!

        Date and time
        August 23, 2012, 10:26AM
      • Soccer should be called headball or diveball or killoppositionsupporterball or "I've got a broken leg at the moment but I'll be right in a minute" ball.

        Date and time
        August 23, 2012, 12:12PM
      • Yes, Fred, nobody ever dives in aerial ping pong or "twohoursofpointlessfumbling" as it should be known.

        Date and time
        August 23, 2012, 12:45PM

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