IMAGERY and perception. Those words may not tell the full story, yet they help shape many questions.
What was going through the minds of Mick Malthouse and Nathan Buckley, as they stood slightly apart, watching the Geelong players being feted on stage on Saturday?
For Mick, was it the cold realisation hit that his career had fluttered to the earth like the blue-and-white ticker tape around him?
And for Bucks, was it the immediacy of the loss, or was he already thinking about next year?
A premiership for your thoughts.
Amid the jubilation of the Cats, the visual disappointment - or was it coldness? - of Buckley and Malthouse standing on the Southern Stand wing will be an image for the ages.
And what about them?
It is said they aren't best friends and that the succession plan had driven a wedge so sharp and deep their relationship had deteriorated to strictly professional. And problematic at that.
They didn't appear to exchange words or warmth in the post-script. At the post-match dinner, Malthouse made only passing reference to the new coach.
At the Collingwood family day yesterday, however, Malthouse acknowledged that the club was in good hands and that "Nathan and the player group will make it even better again".
Perception is reality and so are the thoughts of people close to the Malthouse-Buckley relationship; that Malthouse imposed himself over Buckley and that Buckley despised Malthouse's treatment.
Suffice to say, when Malthouse announced he wouldn't be at Collingwood next year, Buckley wasn't about to use a Chinese burn to convince him to stay.
That it is all over, that the cold war between the two ended without ultimate victory, will clearly demand reference in Collingwood's booklet of history.
The journey this season grew increasingly about Malthouse.
A great of the AFL, he has earned the accolades, but there is a query about the fact the countdown to Saturday became as much about Collingwood as it did Malthouse.
Even as late as Sunday week ago, Malthouse announced on Channel 7 the Grand Final would be his last game as coach.
The role for Eade will partly incorporate functions that Malthouse would otherwise have performed had he stayed at Collingwood - overseeing high-performance strategies, innovations and development - but, unlike Malthouse, Eade will have a role on match day in the box. There may also be some element of opposition analysis.
Collingwood has already appointed Ben Hart to the club as defensive coach, while Scott Watters, who was defensive coach this year, will move to become midfield coach should he not succeed in his bid for the St Kilda position.
Malthouse made the surprising announcement in his post-match press conference that he would not be at Collingwood next year. Malthouse reached a decision with president Eddie McGuire and the club executive about six weeks ago that he would leave after the finals.
He yesterday bid farewell to the crowd of about 1000 who turned out at Gosch's Paddock, saying the club was well positioned to win the flag next year.
''Rest assured this football club can only get better because of yesterday,'' Malthouse said.
''I think you look at the age of our players … Chris Tarrant is our oldest player and he is as fit as he was five years ago. [He] had a fantastic year. Next oldest is Leon Davis, All-Australian this year, Ben Johnson, who had a pretty good year. They are our three oldest players.''
Leigh Brown is the only player confirmed to be leaving the club after announcing his retirement. Brown has indicated an interest in coaching and will speak with several clubs in the coming weeks.
The 30-year-old small defender has indicated an interest to return to family in Western Australia, but yesterday said he would ''definitely like to stay'' at Collingwood.