Anyone can contribute to The Roar and have their work featured alongside some of Australia’s most prominent sports journalists.
Collingwood surprised many this year with a convincing, some say era-defining 48-point win over Adelaide at their home ground, followed by a 49-point win over the Bombers on Anzac Day.
Suddenly, many in the media were talking about the Pies not only making the finals but being a serious contender for 2018.
It was bad timing to then front up to the Tiger machine, yet the Pies came within 11 points before being blown away in the last quarter.
Since then, there was a lucky escape against the bottom-placed Lions in a shoot-out, and then a 20-point loss to the Cats, who only scored nine goals themselves in a simply awful game of footy. The final scorecard ended up looking like the 2005 grand final, when the Swans kicked 8.10.58 to win by four points.
Now, Nathan Buckley’s team are 4-4 and in a precarious position.
But while some say injuries are no excuse, I say that is rubbish. Imagine a Richmond-Geelong preliminary final where the Tigers have a full side and the Cats are missing Gary Ablett, Joel Selwood and Patrick Dangerfield. Any excuse for the Cats if they get beaten? Of course there would be.
So it is hardly sacrilege to point to injuries being a contributing factor and the Pies have had 14 senior players miss multiple games of footy already in eight rounds. Has any side been hit harder, including GWS?
[latest_videos_strip category=”afl” name=”AFL”]
A glass half-full approach would say the injury-depleted Pies have played four of the top five teams in eight rounds, and still won games they should have against the 18th, 17th and 15th-placed sides. The only side they have lost to currently outside the eight are GWS (who, at the time, were top of the ladder and without the injuries they now have).
The telling point of this draw so far is that the Pies have played either top sides or lowly sides, nothing in between. This is what makes the next three weeks absolutely critical, determining whether the Pies hover around the middle – desperately trying to rise above mediocrity yet again – or have a genuine launching pad for the finals at 7-4.
They play St Kilda (16th) and the Dogs (13th) at Etihad, then Fremantle (12th) at the G – all games they should win to be considered a genuine challenger.
Drop one or two here and it is going to be a rocky old climb. Win these next three and the Pies go into a Round 12 match against Melbourne with a shot to go 8-4.
Right now is the time to dig in, despite the injury count, and take the next three wins as a platform to be almost assured of finals. So Bucks, is this side good enough to win six of their next seven games to sit 10-5 or 11-4?
These coming weeks will determine if Collingwood need to mature as a group, and Nathan Buckley knows it.