Magpies coach Nathan Buckley is feeling the heat.
Magpies coach Nathan Buckley is feeling the heat. Cameron Spencer

The buck always stops with the coaches

THE AFL put a stop to betting agencies fielding markets on the sacking of coaches in 2011.

It reckoned it was "unfair".

It had a point. Imagine having an office sweep on who you thought was going to get the chop at your work?

But, coaching at sport's elite level is a unique beast, open to the heaviest of scrutiny by all and sundry. And anyone who looks to enter the role goes in with eyes wide open.

As Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley said this week: "If you don't want pressure you don't take on a senior coaching gig."

And right now Buckley would be feeling as much as any.

In fact, we have Buckley as the $3 favourite in our 'who's feeling the most heat' market, heading a quality field that includes Damien Hardwick (Richmond) $4, Ken Hinkley (Port Adelaide) $5, and Ross Lyon (Fremantle) $10.

To make it clear, it doesn't necessarily relate to who's most likely to get the axe. After all, Buckley (re-committed until the end of 2017), Hardwick (2018) and Lyon (2020) all signed contract extensions in recent months, while Hinkley (2018) inked a new deal last year.

But their teams, which many would have had in their final eight, are seriously under-performing, with a combined four wins from 16 games.

Buckley has the unwavering support of No.1 fan, club president Eddie McGuire, who probably still has a poster of 'Bucks' on his bedroom wall.

But Maguire can't hide the fact his main man has overseen just three wins in the Magpies' past 15 games, with their highly-rated kids not coming on, and high-profile recruits not altering fortunes.

Hardwick has the dishonour of having now coached more games (139) without a finals win than any other in VFL-AFL history.

He's had three cracks with a side that has beaten three-time reigning premier Hawthorn in three of their past four meetings, but looked out of place in September.

He's seems to have now got them back to being the 'Tigers of old', and headed for no finals berth at all.

Hinkley was a breath of fresh air during his first two seasons at the Power, but things are starting to smell a little off there.

He had Port following his 'never give up' mantra, but the side gave up within minutes of its game against GWS, which led to him branding his players both mentally and physically weak.

While premierships are the ultimate endorsement, coaching is about getting the best out of a group.

And Lyon is the only one of the four who has shown to have done that, at St Kilda and Fremantle.

His skills as a list regenerator - something we didn't see at the Saints - will now be tested with the Dockers, who have gone from minor premiers to now facing the task of trying to become the first team to be 0-4 and still make finals.

But, he may just be ready for the challenge. He did take to Twitter for the first time in three years last month with "Strap yourselves in".

A warning to fans their team was indeed teetering on the edge of a steep decline?

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