“He’s one of the most popular players I would have played with because he’s just a very humorous guy,” Akermanis said.
“He’s got a great balance between seriousness and the jovial nature he does have. He would run our Mad Mondays, he would run our overseas trips and just a great organiser.”
Akermanis added that McRae was “able to soften up bad news” as well as being good at instilling confidence in others and talking people through difficult situations.
“He’s also got the subtle art of the velvet sledgehammer.”
Akermanis, these days living back in Brisbane and working in real estate, has long bemoaned his own inability to land a coaching job at an AFL club, and said he would entertain any offer from the Pies, but noted that McRae had an abundance of strong candidates to support him.
“He knows my footy brain. It’s always been a shame that I couldn’t use it because of the reputation that precedes me … I’d never say never,” Akermanis said.
“Craig’s got plenty of choice … If he asked me, I’d talk to him about it. In the end, the most important thing is he’s got the new role.”
Meanwhile, former Gold Coast, St Kilda and Richmond hard nut Maverick Weller lauded McRae, who coached Weller for a season at the Tigers where they claimed the 2019 VFL premiership together.
“He’s an amazing person. He’s a real relationships coach … and is able to coach different personalities,” Weller said from Tasmania where he now coaches Penguin.
“I had a year with him and I just felt like I knew him for 10 years.
“He’s a very empathetic coach, very caring. I haven’t got a bad word to say about him. The belief that he had in me straight away, he made me feel like I had a real chance.”
Since retiring from playing, McRae has coached in two separate stints at Richmond, had a year on the Lions’ coaching panel, was a development coach at the Magpies and spent 2020 working with Hawthorn. It means he has played under or worked alongside Leigh Matthews, Mick Malthouse, Damien Hardwick and Alastair Clarkson.