Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley's response to the pointed criticisms of his former premiership ruckman Darren Jolly on Thursday was predictably measured.

The Magpie legend knows how the media works, and that to respond in kind to Jolly's hurt at the way he departed the Westpac Centre would only have further stoked the fires.

But having retired as a player only six years ago, Buckley can also still remember well enough the enormous wrench that came with the realisation that a 15-year AFL playing career was at an end.

When the Brownlow medallist and six-time Copeland Trophy winner announced officially it was all over in early October of 2007, he'd made his decision days previously, but even then conceded to feeling ''a bit numb''.

''Over the last couple of weeks the mind has been going all over place - should I or should I not - but I'm committed in my mind to the decision I've made,'' he told a news conference held to mark the occasion, which featured glowing tributes and video homages befitting a player of his stature.

Jolly's exit, in contrast, was anything but grand. And while Buckley could have come back swinging on Thursday, he'd clearly taken on board just how big a toll two full months of uncertainty had taken on the dual premiership ruckman. Not to mention the sinking feeling of a career being ended against one's will, and with no opportunity for a proper farewell.

Until late Wednesday morning, when the AFL pre-season and rookie drafts were held, Jolly had genuinely believed his career would be continuing.

Indeed, that morning, at 7am, he'd undergone a medical with Essendon club doctor Bruce Reid after having the previous day had a positive meeting with Bombers' recruiting manager Adrian Dodoro, assistant coach Simon Goodwin and head of coaching development and strategy Neil Craig.

But Essendon decided to go instead with young ruckman Fraser Thurlow, Jolly only finding out he'd missed out with the Bombers by checking the internet moments after the last draft selection had been called out.

Jolly, for two months previously, had been led to believe St Kilda was very interested in procuring his services as both a ruckman and mentor to the club's younger rucks.

While his contact had been largely with the now-departed Scott Watters, Jolly had discussions with both head of football Chris Pelchen and list manager Ameet Bains, toured St Kilda's Seaford headquarters and had a medical with the Saints as well.

That was days after he'd been axed by Collingwood, and Jolly was reassured that with a young family to support he'd be given an answer as soon as possible. But that definitive answer was a long time coming.

Watters' sacking changed the picture dramatically, but even then, the Jolly camp claims that while not having discussed terms or money, St Kilda told his management it was still interested. Finally, on Tuesday, the day before the draft, he was given the thumbs-down. Leading player managers said on Thursday that clubs had improved their communication with prospective draftees in recent years.

Mitch Thorp, for example, had been courted by as many as five clubs throughout the season, and at least a couple into this week. But his management was told by Tuesday evening that he was unlikely to be picked up, at least sparing him the anguish of having to sit expectantly the following day for a call which never came.

The AFL Players' Association, though, is conscious of the need for improved communication with players within clubs, be it after being overlooked for a game, cut from a senior list or overlooked at the draft table.

A recent research project undertaken for the AFLPA identified the area as one which still needed improvement.

Jolly was in a better place on Thursday than the day before, when he said the ''bloody nightmare'' of the previous two months had turned him off football. He'd made contact with Collingwood president Eddie McGuire, and was more hopeful afterwards that his contribution to the Magpie cause these past few years would be suitably acknowledged.

Both Jolly and Buckley will always have their versions of the ruckman's final meeting with the coach as a Collingwood player. But both would agree on the awkwardness of the moment. ''It's not something that I think you get used to,'' Buckley said.

Sensitivity, he said, was required for a player ''coming to grips with his football mortality''. And the coach knows, better than most, how much that hurts. Particularly when, as in Jolly's case on Wednesday, it's a sudden and unexpected fatality.