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    The betting market has Collingwood as premiership favourites. Expert opinion, however, is saying something else. Terry Wallace has suggested the Pies’ lack of depth, already highlighted in the NAB Cup, will cost them the flag.

    Who would have thought depth was going to be a problem after they won the competition in 2010? I predicted a Collingwood empire after they demolished the formidable Geelong side in that year’s preliminary final. I just couldn’t see anyone challenging them in the near future.

    Their key players were experienced and still relatively young. Mick Malthouse’s famed rotation policy was one of the main reasons his side had become a dominant force.

    Young players were regularly rotated between the VFL and senior sides to ensure broad AFL experience within the squad. And regular members of the senior side were rarely kept in the same positions so each could become a jack of all trades on game day.

    It was silly of me to make such a forecast, of course. Malthouse said himself that so much happens in a grand final that it feels like a lifetime. A whole season, then, might as well be an eternity.

    The club lost their second and third most experienced players: the important all-rounder Leigh Brown (246 games) and the half-back excitement machine Leon Davis (225). Brent Macaffer and Andrew Krakouer have both suffered season-ending injuries.

    The loss of Krakouer, the continued poor form of Didak, and the failure of Jarryd Blair to kick on from his fairytale 2010 debut season will also seriously affect their strike power in front of goal.

    They looked the goods last year but were ultimately found wanting against Geelong. That is nothing to be ashamed of, but do they have any improvement in them?

    Their grand final conquerors have lost the vastly experienced Cameron Ling, Brad Ottens, Cameron Mooney, and Darren Milburn. But the last two weren’t considered good enough for the grand final anyway, and their gun youngsters Tom Hawkins, Allen Christensen, Trent West, and Daniel Menzel are on the rise.

    Terry Wallace, not unexpectedly, has anointed his old team Hawthorn as premiership favourites. With the class of some of their players and the amazing depth (the bottom eleven have played 768 games between them) that is difficult to argue with.

    Listening to Malthouse’s 2011 pre-game grand final speech on the Channel Seven documentary Two Hours That Last A Lifetime, it became clear that the coach of the minor premiers suspected the task of winning the premiership was beyond his playing group: “This is going to take one of the greatest efforts of all time. Because they (Geelong) are a good side.”

    Is it realistic then to think Collingwood, with a weakened list, can reassert themselves and present a challenge to the undoubtedly classier Geelong and Hawthorn outfits? What about the talented up-and-comers in West Coast and Adelaide?

    There are distractions as well. Ignoring his team’s unceremonious eviction from the NAB Cup, Nathan Buckley has not had a real chance to present his coaching credentials. However, with an experienced and successful man like Rodney Eade as his ‘football and coaching strategist’, many are wondering if Buckley is actually the coach.

    Then there’s Malthouse, already proving to be an annoying presence as a media commentator with his veiled criticism of the club’s handling of the Krakouer affair. He did say he thought Collingwood would win the premiership, but who knows if that was a true view, an act of encouragement, or an attempt to put pressure on Buckley?

    On a positive note for the club, Eade has downplayed his own influence, claiming Buckley has already placed his imprint on the side. Perhaps the club will be revitalised by the new coach, just as Geelong were last season.

    Malthouse had done so well with unexceptional lists by strictly adhering to structures. He was a paternal leader, meaning the players often felt like they were playing for him rather than the team. The agonised look on poor Chris Dawes’ face immediately after the grand final when he thought he had let his father figure down was awful to watch.

    From all accounts the young coach is more old school than his predecessor – reducing the role of high performance manager and scientist David Buttifant, keeping the players out on the track longer and focusing less on structure and more on ball skills.

    This seems a positive response to the seemingly never-ending challenge posed by Geelong.

    Chris Scott is a contemporary to his players but he is also thoughtful and wise. Collingwood are hoping Buckley will be the same to his group, and bring the club a premiership.

    I’m tempted to say he won’t, but I’m done making forecasts.

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    The Crowd Says (30)

    • March 22nd 2012 @ 3:16am
      AndyMack said | March 22nd 2012 @ 3:16am | ! Report

      Hi

      Think the Pies still line up pretty well. The weakness may be in the forward line given that Dawes is a bit of a mystery, and then lacking some small forwards with Blair and Didak out of touch or injured and Andy K out for the year. If Dawes and the small forwards come good this year, Pies will be hard to beat. With the midfield talent, I’m sure the ball will spend plenty of time in the forward 50. Its how they use it, and they can’t rely on Cloke the whole time.

      Its amazing how well the Cats still line up, when you consider who they have lost over the last 2-3 years. Think they will be top 4 again.

    • March 22nd 2012 @ 7:45am
      TomC said | March 22nd 2012 @ 7:45am | ! Report

      Boy, is this article going to cop some nasty responses from certain Collingwood fans!

      Anyway, I have quite a lot of problems with the logic in this article, but the biggest one is this idea that players who underperformed last season like Blair and Didak are on an inevitable downward spiral, while young players who broke out like Hawkins, Christensen, West and Menzel are on a straight road to the top.

      Andrew Embley, Dean Cox, Daniel Kerr and Darren Glass would probably have something to say about the first point. Rhys Palmer, Des Headland, Justin Koschitzke, Andrew Raines, Mitch Clark and Danyle Pearce would probably shake their heads sadly at the second point.

      In fact, I’d argue that it’s much more likely that an experienced player will return to form after a slump than a young player on the rise will continue improving. Rising stars often need to consolidate, or even go backwards, to go forwards again.

      Anyway, Collingwood will do just fine in 2012. Let’s not forget that they won 20 regular season games, and only ever lost to one team. If the Cats had been marginally less effective last season we’d be talking about the 2011 Magpies as one of the all time great teams. Even if they can’t quite match their level of footy from last year they might still win the flag.

    • March 22nd 2012 @ 9:24am
      Tommy said | March 22nd 2012 @ 9:24am | ! Report

      Hmm,
      Very silly logic here… remember everyone said this about Geelong 2 years ago. With Collingwood’s incredible engine room and big men they will be fine. With the losses of Andy K etc comes opportunities for others to learn off some of the better stars in the game… Just like what happened down at geelong. As TomC said, they lost to only one opponent last season… and you say their rotation policy won them games? what about the raw and incredible talents of pendles, thomas, swan and cloke… not to mention the injured ben reid and undercooked heath shaw. Im not a pies fan, it just drive me crazy when articles are written out of agenda not logic… you are clearly no expert otherwise you would write for an established company

      • Roar Guru

        March 22nd 2012 @ 1:06pm
        Andrew Sutherland said | March 22nd 2012 @ 1:06pm | ! Report

        Tom C, you make some fair points.

        Your comment about all time great teams is an interesting one. Perhaps not being able to win it proves they are not such a team. Teams on that list win multiple Grand Finals. True the Pies have dominated the last two seasons. They won the 2010 GF on a second attempt and scraped through the Preliminary Final last season and after a close tussle were blown away by a truly great side. Even Maxwell said after the game that Geelong “really showed what a champion side is like”.

      • Roar Guru

        March 22nd 2012 @ 1:28pm
        Andrew Sutherland said | March 22nd 2012 @ 1:28pm | ! Report

        Tommy,

        I know everyone said that about Geelong. I did too… but that was Geelong.
        You’re right to mention their great midfield and one key forward but that goes without saying for an excellent side. Malthouse explained that his teams’ success (including the less talented ones of ’02 & ’03) were based on structure – that players can come and go but structure is all.

    • Roar Guru

      March 22nd 2012 @ 9:48am
      Richard said | March 22nd 2012 @ 9:48am | ! Report

      Thoughtful article and your conclusions are fair enough. I suspect that Hawthorn are the team to watch this year, but I would be surprised if Geelong are not up there too. Geelong deserve respect as an outstanding club and I for one have enjoyed watching them play (true I enjoy beating them more). As for the ‘Pies, well they dominated the season last year but the strain took its toll when it counted.They played maybe their worst footy for the year in the last quarter of the Grand Final. This year expect to see them pace themselves better – they’ve a tough season ahead as well . I expect a slow start with a build up at the pointy end.

      As for the outs this year, well McAffer didn’t do much at all last year. Leon had his best year ever, but was out of the Premiership side in 2010 – and Marty Clarke will take his place very effectively. Leigh Brown was terrific, but he will be well covered. Krakour is out and showed some flashes of brilliance it’s true, but we didn’t have him in 2010 either. There are some excitement machines coming up for the ‘Pies too – I like the look of Peter Yagmoor, Tom Young and Jackson Paine. I also expect real improvement from Beamsy, Sharrod and Blairy and I hope to see it from Simon Buckley, who I like the look of.

      So maybe you’re thinking “hope springs eternal”, but I can’t wait until the next time we meet Geelong. And I’m looking forward to a great year ahead for the Mighty ‘Pies!

      • Roar Guru

        March 22nd 2012 @ 12:39pm
        Andrew Sutherland said | March 22nd 2012 @ 12:39pm | ! Report

        Richard,

        I must admit I was surprised to discover from that grand final speech how doubtful Malthouse was. I thought Collingwood were going to win it but Geelong even without Mooney and Podsiadly had too many forward options. You’d think Geelong have now had their fill of premierships and will give it a rest but Scott will believe he’s only just started.

        Buckley may be the change Collingwood need. Dawes talked about how haunted he is by failing Malthouse. That’s not the mindset to have if you want to bounce back from a grand final loss.

        • Roar Guru

          March 22nd 2012 @ 12:46pm
          The Cattery said | March 22nd 2012 @ 12:46pm | ! Report

          The footage from the rooms after a grand final loss was terrific stuff.

          • Roar Guru

            March 22nd 2012 @ 1:11pm
            Andrew Sutherland said | March 22nd 2012 @ 1:11pm | ! Report

            Cattery, brilliant wasn’t it? Wonderful to be allowed in like that.

    • March 22nd 2012 @ 9:48am
      Brian said | March 22nd 2012 @ 9:48am | ! Report

      This article is full of speculative statements. Fact is premierships are won by a good list which peaks in September. Geelong had better luck with form and injuries than Collingwood or Hawthorn last year and they got up. Geelong aren’t masters of this either, see 2008.

      Collingwood definately have the list which is a lot younger than Geelong. Like Hawthorn and Geelong if their superstars stay fit and their chosen 22 around August does too they will be very hard to beat.

      Not sure how you can call Didak out of form either since we have not had Round 1 yet.

    • March 22nd 2012 @ 10:28am
      brendan said | March 22nd 2012 @ 10:28am | ! Report

      The conclusions you draw in theory may be correct but just as eveyone thought Geelong were gone (me included as a Geelong supporter i went to the 2010 prelim to say thanks for four great years not knowing 2011 would top it off) who knows.In the last 5 or so years there has been 1-2 teams much more dominant than the rest and i have a feeling that this year there are at least four sides all around about the mark,Collingwood included.All the top sided have defined weaknesses Hawthorn’s lack of Key Defenders over 193 cm,Geelong’s inexperienced rucks,Collingwood’s have lost many flankers with the ones left at the end of there career or small,Carlton’s lack of Bookend’s and the side i had pencilled in West Coast losing Le Cras.In summary in what i anticipate to be a very even season the Carringbush have as much chance as anyone.

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