Carlton coach Mick Malthouse says it is imperative he coaches ''without emotion'' against his old team Collingwood on Sunday, as the countdown to the match took an awkward twist on Thursday.
The annual Peter MacCallum charity breakfast provided the scene for the first face-to-face meeting between Malthouse and Pies coach Nathan Buckley in the build-up to the clash.
While the absence of Collingwood president Eddie McGuire took the edge off the tension, there was still an uneasy - if cordial - dynamic in the MCG dining room as Malthouse and Buckley shook hands before a panel discussion. But they did not speak to each other before or after the breakfast, several onlookers noted.
The master and his apprentice will go head-to-head in Malthouse's first game opposite Collingwood since the three-time premiership coach walked out in messy circumstances after the Magpies lost the 2011 grand final.
Malthouse said he had learnt from his experiences of coaching against his other former clubs for the first time - the Western Bulldogs in 1990 and West Coast 10 years later - that he could not let his personal feelings get in the way.
''If I focus on that [coaching against his old team], then to me, I'm doing the very thing I coach against - and that's individuality,'' he told the gathering. ''It must be about the team, so therefore I have to make sure that any emotions that I have are all directed towards our team playing as well as they can. Does it mean anything to me? Of course it does, because I want my side to win. And the edge for me is that I do know some of the players that play for Collingwood. But it's amazing being 12 months out [of coaching] … there is a massive change of personnel at football clubs. So it's not the same football club that I was at.''
Malthouse added extra spice to the build-up when he said recently that he would not ''break bread'' with McGuire and ''Eddie knows the reasons why''.
He has also spoken of ''broken friendships'' at Collingwood and that his family was bitter about the way his tenure at the Pies ended.
Collingwood chief executive Gary Pert said he couldn't shed any light on Malthouse's grievances with McGuire and others at the club, despite having been ''intimately involved'' in negotiations when Malthouse accepted and then rejected the director of coaching role.
Buckley acknowledged that he knew Malthouse's philosophies on game plan and players better than most. ''We don't have a lot to go on Carlton under Mick, but obviously playing under him and coaching with him, I have a fair understanding of how he sees the game,'' the second-year senior coach said.
Buckley also pointed out that Malthouse had plenty to live up to, given his predecessor at Carlton, Brett Ratten, who was sacked as Carlton coach last year while Malthouse waited in the wings, had broken down Collingwood's game plan to beat the Magpies twice in 2012.