Gap year, then spreading his wings: Why Pendlebury won’t be coaching at the Pies

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Magpies legend wants to spread his wings

Scott Pendlebury won’t be coaching at Collingwood.

Well, not initially, anyway.

Football insiders are always tight-lipped when it comes to big names and big moves between clubs. But The Scoop has been told by sources from at least six AFL clubs that they are falling over themselves to offer the 35-year-old a coaching path contract. Pendlebury is instead choosing to concentrate on his playing career, which is showing no signs of slowing down.

The former Pies skipper is out of contract this year after signing a two-year contract extension in 2021. He may play into 2024 or beyond and given the way he is still dominating games, who would be brave enough to write him off?

Even in the twilight of his career, people at Collingwood have been amazed at how much they still rely on Pendlebury’s tactical leadership in matches.

Scott Pendlebury wants to get into coaching, but it won’t be at Collingwood.Credit: Getty Images

A senior Magpies player, who did not want to be quoted publicly, told The Scoop this week that the side struggled to find its best in the round seven game against Adelaide, when Pendlebury missed with an eye injury he sustained on Anzac Day.

According to the player, it became obvious during the game – which Collingwood trailed at every change but ultimately ended up winning – that Pendlebury’s unique ability to coach on the field while playing was sorely missed that day at Adelaide Oval.

But, whenever he does decide to hang up the boots, Pendlebury has told The Scoop he will be keen to take a year off and spend it with the family, perhaps travelling the world. After that, he will start his coaching career away from Collingwood.

“I’m keen to see a new environment, to try a different thing,” Pendlebury said.

“If I want to be a really good head coach, I would be doing myself a disservice if I didn’t get out there and see new things.”

What’s more, he’s already discussed it with Collingwood.

“I’ve spoken to ‘Fly’ [coach Craig McRae] and ‘Wrighty’ [football boss Graham Wright] and they’ve been really supportive with me on that as well.”

Collingwood are still hopeful they can convince Pendlebury to begin his coaching journey at the club, but Wright concedes Pendlebury’s standing in the game dictates that he’s earned the right to forge his own path.

“We are still concentrating on Scott playing, which as everyone can see, he’s still got plenty left in the tank.

“Whenever that comes to its natural conclusion, we will sit down with Scott and have the discussion around coaching.”

School is in

Pendlebury has made it no secret that he aspires to be an AFL senior coach and, after being introduced by mutual friend Hayden Skipworth, he is currently assisting Essendon legend Matthew Lloyd in coaching Haileybury in the Associated Public Schools competition. Some of Haileybury’s recent footy graduates include the likes of Luke Davies-Uniacke, the Ben and Max King and Andrew Brayshaw, just to name a few.

The current team is going pretty well, too, and its good form was on display on Saturday when it destroyed Geelong Grammar 24.18 (162) to 3.3 (21). As one parent quipped to The Scoop, “It’s like watching a mini Collingwood”.

Essendon great Matthew Lloyd during his AFL playing days.Credit: Jack Atley

Lloyd, who is famously a hard marker in the media, has been blown away by Pendlebury’s professionalism.

“Scott has an exceptional way of delivering his messages without complication, which is a vital skill for the modern coach,” Lloyd told this column.

“In what might take people hours and hours, he can teach in five minutes. The professionalism he has shown in his playing career is matched in his application to coaching. He’s just a great teacher. He doesn’t need to raise his voice to capture a room, his ability to teach is first class.”

Where and when?

Eighteen seasons in, Leigh Matthews is still marvelling at Pendlebury’s influence.

Matthews began reflecting on Pendlebury’s career after watching him deliver a perfectly weighted pass to Mason Cox late in Sunday’s demolition of Carlton.

“When you talk about the best player or most valuable player, the combination of his performances and his longevity and how long you’ve done it for … I think Nathan Buckley has been better on his good days than even ‘Pendles’ was, but Pendles has been so good for so long … that term MVP, he might be all time for Collingwood but even the 50 years that I’ve observed Collingwood, I don’t think there has been anyone good for as long as Scott Pendlebury has,” Matthews said on 3AW this week.

While Pendlebury and his team are playing such formidable football, it remains inconceivable that he could play anywhere else. And why would he? There could be another premiership (or two) on the horizon under McRae.

But what about after he hangs up the boots?

Former Pies coach Nathan Buckley with Pendlebury in 2018.Credit: Eddie Jim

“I reckon he always thought he’d go elsewhere to coach,” former teammate and coach Nathan Buckley told The Scoop.

Buckley, of course, knows what it’s like to be in Pendlebury’s position. A fellow giant of the club and of the game, Buckley spent a year in the media after retiring before returning to Collingwood as an assistant with a view to take over from Mick Malthouse.

“Given what I went through, I would recommend that everyone get as many different experiences as they possibly can. Having said that, he’s also had three coaches that go about it in different ways.”

Whichever direction Pendlebury chooses, he will not be short on offers from other clubs.

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