Four things that can stop Collingwood winning

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Luke Ball marks for Collingwood

Luke Ball of the Magpies marks the ball in front of Sean Dempster of the Saints during the AFL Round 21 match between the St Kilda Saints and the Collingwood Magpies at Etihad Stadium, Melbourne. Slattery Images.

Another week, another win for the ladder-leading Mapgies. Collingwood has lost just two matches since round eleven last year, both by a mere three points. The Mapgies of 2011 have been lauded by many as the one of the greatest teams of all time.

Many believe it to be a formality that the Pies will draw level with Carlton and Essendon this year on sixteen VFL/AFL premierships each.

Can anything stop Collingwood’s relentless march towards back-to-back flags?

You bet. Despite the Magpies being deserved favourites to win this year’s premiership, there are a few concerns which loom on the horizon for the all-conquering Mapgies.

Memo Mick Malthouse: these are the four hurdles that stand between your club and the sweet taste of premiership glory this year.

Buddy’s Big Day Out

On his day, Hawthorn’s Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin is the most destructive player in the competition, and has the ability to turn any match Hawthorn’s way almost singlehandedly. Add to the mix fellow dynamic forward Cyril Rioli and it becomes clear that the Hawks have the forward line guns to upset the reigning premiers.

Should the Hawks and Mapgies meet during the finals, the Collingwood defenders will be hoping that Buddy and Cyril are not at their best.

Injuries and Suspensions

Collingwood has undoubtedly the deepest list in the AFL, but the Magpies brains trust will still be mindful of the significant number of key players on the sidelines as the finals action draws closer.

The Magpies were missing first choice players Heath Shaw (suspended), Leon Davis (injured), Nick Maxwell (injured), Chris Dawes (injured), Sharrod Wellingham (injured) and Ben Johnson (injured) from their match against Brisbane on Saturday night.

Although the Collingwood list runs deep, the unsettled Collingwood line-up could prove problematic and unsettling at the pointy end of the season.

Geelong’s Quest for Revenge

The Cats are the only team to defeat the Magpies this year, and are entrenched in second spot on the ladder behind the Magpies.

The Cats appear to be gaining pace as the season progresses and will fancy themselves against the Magpies. Having been hammered in last year’s preliminary final by the Mapgies, the Cats will be very keen to seek retribution this season.

Interestingly, the two top sides play each other in the final round of this season. Exactly how both sides approach this match remains to be seen. Will both teams go all out in pursuit of victory and bragging rights, or keep a little bit extra in the tank for finals?

Complacency

Surely hearing how good you are day-in and day-out must begin to affect the headspace of the Collingwood players? The Magpies are poised to end the home and away season with the best percentage of any VFL/AFL side of the past 100 years.

This raises the question – could the biggest risk of all to Collingwood’s 2011 premiership hopes be the players themselves? If they begin to believe their own hype, the club may become susceptible to an embarrassing finals exit.

In the past decade, the side which has finished the minor round on top of the ladder has gone on to win the premiership only four times, and two of the sides which finished top and missed out on premiership glory (St Kilda in 2009 and Geelong in 2008), had similarly sparkling seasons to the 2011 Magpies.

Malthouse need only remind his players of these statistics to ensure they take nothing for granted come the finals.

Follow Michael on Twitter @michaelfilosi

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