Nathan Buckley and Michael Voss in the 2002 grand final.
Nathan Buckley and Michael Voss in the 2002 grand final.

Hidden details of Pies’ Buckley trade deal

FORMER Brisbane coach Robert Walls believes Nathan Buckley could have retired a four-time premiership captain had he stayed with the club instead of seeking a trade to Collingwood.

Walls says the current Magpie coach would likely have been the captain of the all-conquering Lions in the early 2000s - given Michael Voss was three years younger - if he had stayed.

He also believes Buckley's on-field impact would have been enough to lift the Lions over the line in the 2004 grand final against Port Adelaide, when Brisbane's bid for a fourth successive flag fell short.


"They won three premierships at Brisbane. Had he stayed at Brisbane, they would have won four of them with him," Walls told the Sacked podcast.

"I will say this and people will disagree, but if he had stayed there, he would have been captain and not Vossy. Purely on the basis that he was three years older than Vossy.

"The year he played for Brisbane (in 1993) he was 21 and we went to the Morningside footy club for a celebration and Vossy was 18 years old that year. It just makes sense that Buckley would have he got the nod ahead of Vossy."


Nathan Buckley in his one season for Brisbane.
Nathan Buckley in his one season for Brisbane.

Walls revealed that without his intervention the Bears would have allowed Buckley to go straight from SANFL stardom to his choice of AFL club at the end of 1992.

He also detailed how the eventual deal with Collingwood, brokered with Supreme Court action pending, was sealed with the Pies handing the Bears an unknown sum of cash.

Buckley's single year at the Lions was incredible, as he polled 14 Brownlow votes in 20 games, kicked 21 goals and averaged more than 22 possessions a game in 1993.

But Walls angrily denied a 26-year rumour the Lions tweaked their best-and-fairest voting to ensure Rising Star winner Buckley finished second behind eventual winner Michael McLean.

Despite the persistent theory the Bears wouldn't reward a departing player with their club championship, Walls says he never penalised him in voting.

"What do I think about it? I would be amazed if that's the case and it's an absolute insult to Mick McLean because in the five years I coached Brisbane McLean won two best and fairests and was one of the best people I have met in my life," Walls said. "It's an insult for anyone to say he didn't deserve to win the best and fairest."

Buckley is now coaching the Pies.
Buckley is now coaching the Pies.

Walls says the Bears originally had an agreement with North Melbourne to trade Buckley to the Roos but Buckley arrived with an iron-clad contract clause to be traded to his club of choice after one season.

The AFL commission asked the Pies to provide details of any agreement to ensure there was no draft tampering, with the Pies launching Supreme Court action on the day before the draft deadline as Brisbane held firm.

"North Melbourne identified him as a talent and said, 'There is a kid playing in the SANFL in the thirds. We can't list him because he's an NT player (zoned to the Bears). What about you put him on your list and a year down the track we will do a trade'," Walls recalled.

"We had no idea how good he was and in the space of 18 months he goes from nothing to the hottest player in the SANFL and he's on our list.

"North Melbourne came to us and said, 'A deal is a deal' and we said, 'Sorry'.

"Collingwood officials came up and said, 'Let's do a deal here'. I believe Brisbane would have done a deal but I just said we had too many players walking. We had to make a stand.

"We played him wing, half-forward, half-back, tagging and he accepted every role we gave him.

"The Monday after the season was over he came into my office and looked at me and said, 'You know I have to go'. And I said, 'I know'. He said if the deal wasn't in place he would be happy to stay and that meant a lot to me.

"He knew he was going to Collingwood. We got Troy Lehmann, Craig Starcevich and pick 4, which became Chris Scott.

"There could have been a little bit of the folding stuff (money) too.

"I was really proud of the fact we made a stand, that we didn't just let Nathan Buckley go to Collingwood (the previous year) and we hadn't been done over again."

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