COLLINGWOOD coach Craig McRae isn’t surprised his assistants are attracting attention ahead of Richmond’s search for Damien Hardwick’s successor.

Magpies head of strategy, ex-Richmond assistant and former Brisbane coach Justin Leppitsch, has been floated as a potential option after Hardwick’s shock departure.

McRae also highlighted fellow assistant Hayden Skipworth.

“I’m lucky now to be in a position where I can pass judgment on others,” McRae said.

“Not only Leppa – Hayden Skipworth is a guy that’s a gem for us.

“Sometimes the market goes up of who should be where and I must admit I was way down the order of odds of ‘who’s going to be the next coach of Collingwood’.

“There’s a lot of great people out there that we know the names and Leppa’s one of those and he’s a great strategist and I can see why he’s mentioned.

“But don’t lose sight of some others in our organisation that play a pivotal role in what we do.”

McRae told SEN radio on Thursday that Leppitsch and former Carlton boss Brendon Bolton were “miles better coaches” now than in their previous senior gigs.

If any assistants were to reach the pointy end of Richmond’s coaching hunt, McRae was uncertain whether Collingwood would let them step away temporarily, or if they would juggle commitments.

“If that presents itself then we talk through it,” he said.

“We want to promote our own, I want to make sure the broader world knows how good our staff are – not just our coaches but our high-performance team.

“I’m the face of it but geez there’s a lot of work going behind here from all our staff and I’m grateful to have a great team around me.”

Justin Leppitsch during his time as Brisbane coach on July 19, 2015. Picture: AFL Photos

High-flying defender Jeremy Howe was back training and is “progressing really well” after his horrific broken arm.

“He’s got to get through a few hoops before he plays but he’s outwardly said that he’d like to play post-bye,” McRae said.

“I don’t know if that’s achievable but he’s certainly working towards that.”

The AFL leaders celebrate Steele Sidebottom’s 300th game and Mason Cox’s 100th against North Melbourne at Marvel Stadium on Sunday.

McRae admitted the mood around the club had been dampened by Collingwood’s decision to hand back their Super Netball licence.

“We care for our people,” he said.

“I’m not sure the exact details of why and the business decisions around those.

“But there’s human beings attached to this and seeing the coaches in there and the tears in the eyes, you can’t help but have an empathetic view of it and we just try to wrap our arms around and support them how we can.”