Derm shares big-game wisdom with Pies before Anzac Day

Roger Vaughan |

There’s no experience like Anzac Day at the MCG, Collingwood coach Craig McRae says.
There’s no experience like Anzac Day at the MCG, Collingwood coach Craig McRae says.

Dermott Brereton always ran into the fire as an AFL player – as well as starting a few blazes himself.

Now the Hawthorn great is sharing his hard-earned wisdom in the hope of sparking Collingwood ahead of Thursday’s Anzac Day blockbuster against Essendon.

Brereton ended his career in 1995 at the Magpies, playing in the first Collingwood-Essendon Anzac Day clash at the MCG, which famously was a draw.

Brereton’s visit on Tuesday came as Collingwood coach Craig McRae stressed the need for his players to not let themselves be caught up in the occasion.

“It’s really important and Pendles (Scott Pendlebury) and some other leaders (in) our group have had a lot of games on this big stage, this moment,” McRae said.

“You can get overawed by things … 95,000 hopefully turn up again.

“You sort of go away from doing the processes of what it takes – the football is the same size and the ground is the same size.

“It’s just the occasion you can get caught up in – we’d like to stay present (in) that and then break it down into minute-by-minute type things.”

McRae said Collingwood asked Brereton to speak to the players because he was in the 1995 clash and, as a five-time Hawthorn premiership star, he knows what it takes.

“It’s 29 years of Anzac Day games … we thought with his experience in the game and he’s been around a lot of success (it might help to get him in),” McRae said.

“He knows what it’s like to be a Collingwood player.”

Dermott Brereton in 2023.
Collingwood have received a pre-Anzac Day address from Dermott Brereton, pictured here in 2023. (Con Chronis/AAP PHOTOS)

This will be McRae’s third Anzac Day match as Collingwood coach and the occasion has affected him deeply.

“There’s not an experience like it that I’ve had in my life,” he said of the Last Post being bugled in the pre-game ceremony.

“It’s a great occasion and we’re really grateful to be a part of it.”

Collingwood are unlikely to make any changes after they rediscovered their mojo in last Saturday’s 42-point belting of Port Adelaide.

McRae initially joked, “Where did we go? We went somewhere, did we?”, when it was put to him on Tuesday that his team is back – but he acknowledged there has been a cultural shift in the last couple of weeks.

“We want to be a better version of who we are. We don’t want to stand still,” he said.

“We’re a work in progress. That was a step forward.

“Culturally, the last couple of weeks in particular, you walk in there and we want to be a family-first footy club.

“Those little things we want to be – to see it and feel it, this feels like the club we want to be, a country footy club if you like.”

Action from last year's Collingwood-Essendon Anzac Day clash.
Action from last year’s Anzac Day clash, which Collingwood won by 13 points. (James Ross/AAP PHOTOS)

While Collingwood will start favourites, Essendon are showing signs of improvement.

“They’re really good around stoppage – they’re top-two for nearly everything around stoppages,” McRae said.

“They park the bus at times, too, so you’re going to have to manage your way through a lot of numbers.”

Pendlebury’s outstanding career will reach another milestone on Thursday – he is five away from 10,000 disposals, the AFL record.

“He’s such an organiser. He’s a coach on the field – when we subbed him out (on Saturday), he was coaching on the bench,” McRae said.

“He’s a marvel and we’re so lucky to have him.”