Brodie Grundy will remain in Collingwood colours for the foreseeable future after signing a contract extension with the Magpies.
At the start of the year, I had tipped Collingwood to finish on top of the ladder after 22 rounds. Tick. I also had Hawthorn in the top four. Tick.
My tip for the Brownlow wasn’t as convincing, although I did name the winner.
“The Brownlow medalist will come from the Premier, although it won’t be Dane Swan.” At least I got the club correct, picking Scott Pendlebury.
Pre-season I also tipped Collingwood to be premiers in 2011, going back to back for the first time since 1935-36.
However, Geelong wasn’t on my radar to be a chance nor to be favourites going into the 2011 AFL Grand Final.
On the eve of the Grand Final, when Geelong are chasing a third flag in five years, its strange to think I am less certain about Collingwood’s chances now, than I was 26 weeks ago.
The Grand Final we hear so often, is harder to get to than win.
Which makes sense really as, at least once you are there, you have only one more match to play. For further proof on the degree of difficulty, ask Western Bulldogs supporters on the three preliminary finals they played in 2008-10.
So why the skepticism about the Pies’ chances tomorrow?
The obvious reasons are the injury question-marks over key players Darren Jolly and Ben Reid. There are concerns over the form of players like Alan Didak and half a dozen others, who led the way on the charge to the premiership last year.
Then there is the form of the team in recent weeks. They were thrashed by Geelong in round 24, run close in the final quarter of their first final against the Eagles and came from behind in one of the memorable finals against the Hawks last week.
Plus there is the matter of the Cats just being a ridiculously good side, who are in form and finally have Tom Hawkins performing and providing a second key presence that he was recruited for.
However, we are overlooking things a little.
Collingwood are also a very good side, and good sides win finals like they did against Hawthorn. As Mick Malthouse declared this week, Collingwood’s biggest hurdle has now been cleared, the Magpies have got to another Grand Final.
Without the fear of losing and being out of the race, Collingwood can concentrate on doing what he has been planning for 12 months to win another Premiership.
However, Geelong still has that aura about them. They are the premier side of the past five years and a win today would hold them up as one of the great ‘era’ teams we have seen.
They have beaten the Pies twice this year and a third win is likely if a majority of Collingwood’s players are as poor as they were last week.
This is the dream match-up, the two best teams of the year and all fans hope that both teams are in form for the biggest match of the year.
Ultimately though, Collingwood at their best, are better than Geelong at their best. And for that reason I will stick with my pre-season prediction and tip the Pies to be premiers in 2011 by 27 points.