Nathan Buckley has been spotted shopping with his two kids as speculation mounts as to the real reason he quit as Collingwood’s coach.
The AFL legend, 48, will coach the Magpies for the final time on Monday when his struggling team take on competition leaders Melbourne Demons in their Queen’s Birthday clash at the SCG.
Buckley stepping aside from his beloved Magpies shocked many footy fans, with the popular opinion being he was pushed out of the poorly-performing team.
Departing Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley (pictured) was spotted in public for first time with his sons Jett and Ayce after quitting his role as head coach this week
Several well-placed sources suggested Buckley fell out of favour with the current playing squad, which accelerated his departure.
Buckley was spotted with shopping bags alongside with his sons Jett and Ayce on Thursday morning, before getting into a BMW.
Meanwhile, his new cosmetic nurse girlfriend Alex Pike went for a walk with a friend after earlier stopping by his home.
Ms Pike showed off her midriff in a short-cut red jumper and was not wearing a mask as she walked around the Tan in Melbourne.
The younger woman was quick to publicly show support for her man on social media.
She labelled Buckley a ‘powerhouse’ on one of Collingwood’s many Instagram tributes.
Ms Pike also shared a quote about ‘letting go’ – seemingly a reference to Nathan’s decision to quit his role with the Magpies.
‘As we let go of adventures no longer meant for us, we brought new ones aligned with our magic,’ she wrote on Instagram.
She earlier shared two other cryptic quotes: ‘Comfort zones: If you live in one too long… that becomes your norm. Get comfortable being uncomfortable.’
The second read: ‘What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.’
Buckley’s glamorous new cosmetic nurse girlfriend Alex Pike (pictured together) was quick to publicly show her support for her man on social media
Buckley stepping aside from his beloved Magpies shocked many footy fans, with the popular opinion being he was pushed out of the poorly-performing team
Buckley was spotted still wearing his Collingwood Magpies gear as he went shopping with his sons. He still has one last game to coach this weekend against Melbourne
The pair just weeks ago went public with their blossoming relationship following the breakdown of the marriage between Buckley and his now ex-wife Tania Minnici.
Pike, 42, a mother of three, is a former model now renowned for her cosmetic injections to the stars.
So far, Buckley, who took over as head coach from Mick Malthouse in 2012, has remained tight-lipped about his shock decision.
‘I’ve had a part in this…Nothing lasts forever. I was going to be tapped at some stage, but there’s no doubt that this is the best thing for the football club,’ he said.
‘I believe this is the best move for the club as well and I look forward to seeing where it goes from here.’
The consensus from observers is that Buckley was given a tap on the shoulder by Collingwood management and told it was time to go.
After a 3-9 start to the season and results over the past few seasons trending down, the club legend was given the chance to step down instead of being sacked.
‘He certainly lost sections of the playing group throughout this year,’ Fox Sports’ Tom Morris said.
‘I don’t think he was really able to harness the playing group as he would have liked. Some players will be relieved, some others will miss him.
‘I think the sentiment inside the club is that time was right, and clearly Nathan Buckley agrees with that as well.’
Collingwood captain Scott Pendlebury admitted Buckley’s resignation rocked the playing group.
‘It’s definitely a shock, and the first time in my career that I’ve ever been through something like this before. I feel almost a little bit numb,’ Pendlebury told reporters on Wednesday.
‘(He) planned to have a bit of a chat with the leaders and then the timeline sped up and so (he told us) just as a full group.
‘He spoke about (how he thinks) it is the best thing for the club, no person is bigger than the club and that it’s the right time for him to step away.
Nathan Buckley’s new girlfriend Alex Pike (pictured) showed support for her man on social media
The cosmetic nurse to the stars (pictured left) recently went public with her relationship with Nathan Buckley, a Collingwood club legend
Ms Pike, with her mask pulled down to her chin, popped in to see Buckley before heading out as he went shopping with his sons
‘Bucks (also) spoke about his gratitude for the place — he spent half his life here — and how excited he is by the future.
‘And excited for the opportunity that he’s had as a player, as assistant coach, as a coach and everything that he’s contributed to our club.’
Former Collingwood president Eddie McGuire said he hoped Buckley would be fondly remembered at the club.
‘He has always done the right thing, not only by Collingwood, but by the game in general,’ he said on Fox Footy’s AFL 360.
‘Ultimately, he tells me that he believes in his heart that it (quitting as coach) was the right thing to do.’
Former Fremantle Dockers coach Ross Lyon also said it was clear Buckley was asked to fall on his sword.
‘Clearly I think (head of football Graham Wright) has tapped him out. There’s an appetite for change,’ he said.
Lyon is one of several coaches being touted as potential replacements for Buckley next season.
Alex Pike was a model as a youngster before turning her attention to cosmetic surgery
Ms Pike appeared to struggle with the wind as Melbourne was battered by a storm
He refused to say he wanted the job, but indicated he would talk with Collingwood if the club picked up the phone.
‘They are one of the biggest clubs in the land, (with an) incredible tradition … if someone rang me from Collingwood and said ‘Can we talk?’ of course I would sit down and have a discussion,’ he said on Footy Classified.
‘For me it’s such a big position. Nathan Buckley is a revered figure and we saw him handle it and he still got chewed up and spat out.
‘So, it’s not a simple flippant ‘Yeah, I’m interested’ because they are big jobs and they need someone that is unconditionally committed.’
Lyon said if veteran Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson threw his hat in the ring there would be ‘no competition’ and he would get the role straight away.
Mitchell’s job could also be at risk as Hawthorn is performing just as badly as Collingwood to start the season, but he has no intention of leaving.
‘This happens every year, I dare say for the last 10, and I don’t say that in an arrogant fashion. Every time there is some movement with a coach, my name is linked to it,’ he told the Herald Sun.
‘I haven’t moved for 10 years and I dare say I won’t be moving this time either.’
Alex Pike’s Instagram comment, where she labelled her new boyfriend, departing Colligwood coach Nathan Buckley a ‘powerhouse’
Buckley himself endorsed caretaker coach Robert Harvey as the man for the job, with Clarkson the early favourite with the bookies.
Sam Mitchell and one-time Brisbane Lions coach Michael Voss also are tipped to come into consideration.
Once the siren sounds on Monday at the SCG, the curtain will close in what has been a glittering mutual partnership for Buckley and Collingwood.
While he never managed to snare an elusive flag as a player or coach with the Magpies, Buckley led Collingwood to 116 victories with a commendable coaching winning record of 54 per cent.
On the field, the dynamic midfielder was a seven-time All-Australian, won the Norm Smith Medal in 2002 before he was awarded the Brownlow Medal 12 months later.