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Carlton coach Mick Malthouse says he will force himself to coach without emotion. Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley says he will use any inside knowledge still relevant to Malthouse's game plan.
The old master and his accomplished apprentice met face to face and shook hands publicly for the first time ahead of Sunday's mega showdown at the MCG, which renews football’s oldest rivalry.
Carlton coach Mick Malthouse and Collingwood captain Nick Maxwell at the Peter Mac breakfast at the MCG. Photo: Pat Scala
The absence of Eddie McGuire at Thursday's annual Peter MacCallum Cup breakfast took the edge off - the Collingwood president is overseas - but there was still an awkward, if cordial, feeling palpable in the MCG Dining Room as Malthouse and Buckley sat at opposite ends of a panel, sandwiching their captains Marc Murphy and Nick Maxwell.
In an awkward moment, after the panel discussion had concluded, Malthouse walked off the stage without acknowledging Buckley as it appeared the Pies coach was approaching him for another handshake.
Several onlookers who kept a close eye on both men said the pair did not speak to each other before or after the breakfast.
Cordial, but tense: the Peter Mac breakfast at the MCG. Photo: Pat Scala
Malthouse will coach against Buckley and his former club for the first time since the now-infamous succession plan - created to keep Malthouse at Collingwood as a director of coaching while Buckley stepped in as senior coach - turned sour and led to the three-time premiership coach walking out in messy circumstances after the Magpies lost the 2011 grand final.
Malthouse said he had learned from his experiences of coaching against his other former clubs for the first time - the Western Bulldogs and West Coast - that he could not let his personal feelings get in the way of winning.
"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," Malthouse told the gathering.
Black and white and Blue all over
Recent images from the bitter Collingwood/Carlton rivalry.
"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," he said.
"When the game starts, I’ve got no more incentive or any less emotion whether it’s 90,000 people or 40,000 or Collingwood versus Carlton, or my first game with Collingwood against West Coast.
"That is all media and supporter driven, and we’ve got to acknowledge that, that’s one of the great things about this game.
"Does it mean anything to me? Of course it does, because I want my side to win and I will be doing everything possible.
"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) what’s happened, is there is a massive change of personnel at football clubs.
"So it’s not the same football club that I was at."
The Malthouse-Buckley-McGuire-Collingwood history needs no revisiting, however Malthouse has added some extra spice in the lead-up to the blockbuster by saying in a television interview that he would not "break bread" with McGuire and insisting that "Eddie knows the reasons why".
Malthouse also admitted on the club’s website this week that his family was bitter about the way his tenure ended at the Pies.
Buckley admitted he knew Malthouse’s philosophies on game plan and players better than most after being involved with his teams for 10 years as either a player or coach.
The Pies coach also subtly put a slice of pressure on Malthouse by pointing out that he had a lot to live up to - given his predecessor 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 club twice in 2012.
"We don’t have a lot to go on Carlton under Mick. Obviously playing under him and coaching with him, I have a fair understanding of how he sees the game of footy," Buckley said.
"As Mick has detailed, Carlton are a work in progress and moving towards that. How much of the residual is still there and how much of the new stuff is going to come through, we will see as the year progresses," he said.
"But my recent experience of Carlton last year and this group of Carlton players is that they knocked us over twice. So Brett Ratten had a fair understanding of us and had a way to get around our strengths."
Buckley refused to give away any selection news, so supporters - and Carlton - will have to wait until teams are released on Thursday night to find out whether the likes of Heath Shaw (illness), Dale Thomas (ankle), Ben Johnson (thigh), Ben Reid (concussion) and others with questions marks on them will play against the Blues.
Collingwood CEO Gary Pert told SEN soon after the breakfast that there were fewer than 2000 seats remaining for Sunday's much-anticipated clash, and he expected a crowd of over 90,000.