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The decade that was: Collingwood

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Roar Guru
19th November, 2019
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Following a disappointing finals series after a top-four finish in 2009, Collingwood entered the 2010 decade as one of the teams to beat, boasting high-profile recruits Darren Jolly and Luke Ball.

Nine consecutive wins following their mid-season bye set the Magpies up for a crack at their 15th flag, which they would achieve after a dramatic draw with St Kilda in the grand final, before easily winning the replay by 56 points.

The Pies were even better the following year, losing just two matches for the entire home-and-away campaign. However, Geelong, the team that inflicted those two losses, proved too good in the decider. It would be the final game in charge for long-time coach Mick Malthouse after 286 matches for a 163-2-121 record.

Former captain Nathan Buckley was handed the reigns after a two-year apprenticeship. He led the Pies to a top-four finish in his first year, but they were bundled out in a preliminary final against the Sydney Swans. In 2013, Collingwood failed to make the top four but still managed a top-eight finish. Matched up against Port Adelaide at the MCG, the Magpies were shock losers.

It would be Collingwood’s final appearance in September for four seasons, with Buckley barely surviving a 39-48-1 period. Handed a two-year contract extension at the conclusion of 2017 despite strong rumours he would be moved on, Buckley guided Collingwood to their first grand final in seven years despite battling a litany of injury issues.

In one of the greatest games of the modern era, the Pies lost to West Coast by just five points.

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A dominant first half of the 2019 season had Collingwood favoured by many to win the premiership, however, the wheels fell off after the mid-season bye. They still recovered enough to win the rights to a double chance in the finals and prevailed by ten points in a qualifying final against Geelong, setting up a home preliminary final with the sixth-placed GWS Giants.

Hot favourites to go through and set up a monster grand final with Richmond, the Pies were beaten by four points in one of the biggest finals upsets in recent memory.

Best wins

Grand final replay, 2010 – Collingwood 16.12 (108) defeated St Kilda 7.10 (52) (MCG)
After holding a 24-point lead early in the second half of the 2010 grand final, Collingwood were run down by a determined St Kilda. The two sides were level on the scoreboard when the final siren sounded – setting up a replay one week later for just the third time in VFL/AFL history.

The Magpies were far too strong, putting their foot on the throat after half time with ten goals to six. It would be Collingwood’s 15th premiership, moving them just one behind league leaders Essendon and Carlton, while also breaking a 20-year flag drought.

Preliminary final, 2011 – Collingwood 10.8 (68) defeated Hawthorn 9.11 (65) (MCG)
After a dominant home-and-away campaign in which they lost just twice, the Magpies found themselves in a tough situation. With just five goals on the board at three quarter time and facing a 17-point deficit, Collingwood got their nose in front with a Travis Cloke goal late in the match.

A spectacular reply from Lance Franklin up the other end had them on the back foot yet again, before a snap from Luke Ball put them in front just prior to the final siren.

Preliminary final, 2018 – Richmond 8.10 (58) defeated by Collingwood 15.7 (97) (MCG)
Having fallen to the Eagles in Perth in a qualifying final, the Magpies set up a mouthwatering preliminary final contest after a scrappy victory over the Giants in the semis.

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Tipped by all and sundry to advance to their second consecutive grand final, Richmond were shellshocked by a dominant Magpies outfit led by American tall Mason Cox. Leading by as much as 53 points in the second term, the Pies weathered a comeback to set up another meeting with the Eagles in the decider.

Worst losses

Elimination final, 2013 – Collingwood 9.9 (63) defeated by Port Adelaide 12.15 (87) (MCG)
Gearing up for their eighth consecutive September campaign, a Collingwood side still featuring a whopping 15 premiership players from 2010 took on a young Port Adelaide outfit with 15 individuals playing in their first-ever final.

The Pies were short-priced favourites, especially at home, and even the president got ahead of himself. Eddie McGuire blasted the West Australian Football Commission for allowing rugby union to be played at Subiaco Oval the following Saturday night, meaning Collingwood, if they got past the Power as expected, would only have a six-day break before playing the Dockers, if they lost to Geelong in their qualifying final, as expected.

In the end, Fremantle shocked Geelong at Kardinia Park, before the Power produced an even bigger upset, kicking the final four goals of the contest to win by that margin.

Round 21, 2014 – Collingwood 8.8 (56) defeated by Brisbane Lions 18.15 (123) (MCG)
After spending the majority of the year entrenched in the top eight, a late-season slump had the Magpies battling for the final position in September. A home clash against the lowly Brisbane Lions looked to be the perfect opportunity to bank an important win.

Injury carnage hit early, with Jamie Elliott withdrawn before the match, before skipper Scott Pendlebury was forced out of the side in the warm-up, replaced by Tony Armstrong, who had played four quarters in the VFL that afternoon.

Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley

Nathan Buckley endured some lean years at the helm. (AAP Image/David Crosling)

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Starting as the sub, Armstrong was introduced into the game earlier than expected, with Ben Reid injuring his hamstring in the opening minutes. Travis Cloke and Dayne Beams also had injury concerns, and the Lions took full advantage of the situation. A ten-goal opening half from Brisbane set up a huge 67-point win, meaning Collingwood would miss the finals for the first time since 2005.

Preliminary final, 2019 – Collingwood 7.10 (52) defeated by GWS Giants 8.8 (56) (MCG)
Having earned a week off after beating Geelong in the qualifying final, Collingwood were fit and fresh as they took on the GWS Giants, who were coming off a spirited, but exhausting, encounter with the Lions at the Gabba.

A short-priced favourite to advance to a second consecutive grand final, Collingwood went into half time holding a three-point lead despite kicking just three goals. They were blown away in the third quarter, with GWS breaking the game wide open with five goals in a row, followed by a sixth at the start of the last term.

Trailing by 33 points, Collingwood came home with a flurry, however, it was to no avail, capping off a bitterly disappointing afternoon.

Moments that shaped the club

Claiming their 15th flag
After a monumental 2010 home-and-away campaign that yielded 17 wins and a draw, the Pies won through to their 40th grand final (including the replay in 1977), and first in seven years.

Matched up against a professional, but not spectacular, St Kilda side, Collingwood were warm favourites to claim their 15th premiership. In front of over 100,000 spectators, they started well, leading by 24 points early in the second half. A spirited comeback from the Saints set up one of the most dramatic finishes to an AFL grand final, with scores locked on the final siren.

After just the third drawn grand final in the history of the game, Collingwood and St Kilda returned to the MCG one week later to battle it all out again. The grit and determination seen from the Saints a week earlier had disappeared, with the Magpies flexing their muscle and claiming their first flag in 20 years with their biggest ever win in a grand final.

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The succession plan
Devised by McGuire in 2009, Collingwood great Nathan Buckley, eager to join the coaching ranks after two years out of the game, agreed to a five-year deal with the club.

This wasn’t any ordinary deal. After two years as an assistant, Buckley would replace Mick Malthouse as senior coach, with the latter to move into a director of coaching role. This idea seemed meticulous and grand on paper, but putting an end date on Malthouse’s tenure caused friction between all parties involved.

Malthouse would leave at the height of his coaching powers, having taken the club to two consecutive grand finals. He would not stay on as a director of coaching, instead throwing the keys to Buckley and walking away to eventually become Carlton’s coach at the end of 2012.

After guiding Collingwood to two finals campaigns in a row, the club spent four years in September wilderness. After an entire club review at the end of 2017, Buckley was handed a two-year contract extension. In a stunning turn of events, he took the team to the grand final in 2018, narrowly missing out on their 16th premiership.

While some Collingwood supporters would say the succession plan has eventually become a success, it has be asked; “at what cost?”

The relationship between Malthouse and Buckley is severely fractured, which we learnt this year when Buckley said that he was ‘an enemy’ in Malthouse’s eyes.

Scandals
Nothing creates headlines in Melbourne quite like Collingwood and this decade saw plenty of ink used on the Magpies.

There was a sexual assault charge against Dayne Beams and (the late) John McCarthy following the 2010 premiership, with the two later cleared of any wrongdoing. In 2015, fringe players Lachie Keeffe and Josh Thomas were suspended for two years after testing positive to banned substance clenbuterol, while Sam Murray was suspended late in the 2018 season after he returned a positive test for an illicit drug. Then, of course, there were two separate off-field indiscretions involving young star Jordan de Goey.

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Jordan De Goey

Jordan De Goey was in the bad books for a little while. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

But perhaps the biggest scandal to rock Collingwood this decade was Jaidyn Stephenson being found to have been betting on multiple games involving his team. He was banned for 22 matches, 12 of those suspended, and fined $20,000. It is the heftiest ban ever handed out by the AFL in relation to a breach of wagering rules. Stephenson made his return in the 2019 finals series.

Best 22 of the decade

Back pocket – Nick Maxwell
A controversial selection as captain at the time, Maxwell became Collingwood’s first premiership skipper since Tony Shaw in 1990 in 2010. Maxwell played 90 games this decade before retiring in 2014 due to an ankle injury.

Full back – Nathan Brown
Played an integral role in the 2010 premiership, keeping St Kilda star forward Nick Riewoldt to just two goals across the two grand finals. Had some injury issues but, when he was fit, was a very dependable defender, finishing in the top ten of the best and fairest twice during the decade. Left the club at the end of 2016 to join the Saints as a free agent.

Back pocket – Jeremy Howe
The high-flying forward has made a name for himself as a gun defender since his switch from Melbourne at the end of 2015. Howe has finished in the top ten of the Copeland Trophy every year since joining the Magpies, including two top-five placings.

Half-back – Jack Crisp
Another success story from a rival club. Crisp was the supposed ‘steak knives’ in the Dayne Beams trade, joining from the Lions at the end of 2014. In his five seasons at Collingwood, Crisp has not missed a game and has placed in the top ten of the best and fairest every year, including two top-three finishes.

Centre half-back – Ben Reid
After playing just eight games in his first three seasons, Reid had a breakout year in 2010, earning a nomination for the Rising Star award. He played in both grand finals, opposed to St Kilda forward Justin Koschitzke. Reid had an even better year the following season, claiming a maiden All Australian berth. In 2013, Reid was swung forward to great effect, kicking 25 goals for the season. Since then, Reid has had many injury troubles with his body, managing just 55 games from a possible 138.

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Half-back – Heritier Lumumba
Despite his outspoken nature that led to friction between him and the club, Lumumba was underrated during the decade. He was an All Australian in the premiership year of 2010, while he finished in the top ten of the Copeland Trophy every year between 2010 and 2014. Following his departure at the end of 2014, Lumumba joined Melbourne, playing two seasons before he retired.

Wing – Steele Sidebottom
The popular midfielder has been a stalwart this decade, being the youngest member of the 2010 premiership side. Sidebottom has played 223 games and kicked 158 goals since the start of the decade, finishing in the top ten of the best and fairest nine times. This includes back-to-back wins in 2017 and 2018.

He made his All Australian debut in 2018, a year in which he finished second to Tom Mitchell in the Brownlow medal. That year, he was also the recipient of the Gary Ayres Award for being the best player in the AFL finals series. Also in his trophy cabinet is an Anzac Day Medal from 2016.

Centre – Dayne Beams
Another youngster from the 2010 flag, Beams was a dynamic midfielder capable of pushing forward and hitting the scoreboard. A breakout year in 2012 saw him widely regarded as one of the best players across the league, resulting in an equal-seventh placing in the Brownlow Medal.

Dayne Beams

Dayne Beams, during his first stint with the club. (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

That year, he won his first Copeland Trophy while gaining a place in the All Australian team. After another standout year in 2014, Beams shocked the Magpies by requesting a trade to Brisbane. After four seasons, Beams asked to be traded back. In his first year back, he struggled with injury and mental health issues, playing only nine games.

Wing – Adam Treloar
A gun youngster for GWS, Treloar joined Collingwood at the end of 2015 in a high-profile trade on a six-year deal. The ball magnet has finished in the top ten of the best and fairest three times from four years, winning the Anzac Day Medal in 2018 as well as the Neale Daniher Trophy in 2019 as best afield in the Queen’s Birthday clash. He had the most of disposals of any player this year.

Half-forward – Alex Fasolo
The self-proclaimed ‘Prince of Perth’, Fasolo was a handy goalkicker, kicking 133 goals from 101 games. He took out Collingwood’s leading goalkicker award in 2016, while he was named best first-year player in 2011, a season in which he played in the losing grand final. At the end of 2018, Fasolo joined Carlton as a free agent, playing three games before retiring.

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Centre half-forward – Travis Cloke
The son of famous Richmond and Collingwood player David, Cloke was the most successful of three brothers who all spent time with the club. Cloke went from being a handy contributor in the forward line to one of the competition’s best key forwards in this decade. After playing in the 2010 premiership, he had a breakout season in 2011, kicking a whopping 69 goals.

After 58 majors in 2012, he would nearly reach his career-high in 2013, falling just one short on 68. In total, Cloke kicked 324 goals from 146 games during the decade, earning All Australian honours in 2011 and 2013, winning the club goalkicking award four times and finishing in the top ten of the Copeland Trophy on five occasions.

After declining form, he moved to the Western Bulldogs at the end of 2016 before retiring after one year.

Half-forward – Jordan de Goey
Has endured a highly controversial start to his AFL career since his debut in 2015. On the eve of the 2017 season, De Goey was fined $5,000 and suspended for three matches after he lied to the club about the circumstances involving a broken hand sustained in a bar fight. A year later, De Goey was caught drink driving, resulting in an indefinite suspension, a fine of $10,000 and a banishment to train with the VFL squad.

It would be the wake-up call the talented youngster needed, resulting in a career-best year in which he kicked 48 goals to take out Collingwood’s leading goalkicker award. It also resulted in his first top ten placing in the Copeland Trophy. He would again be a focal point up forward in 2019, but injuries would restrict him to 17 games and 34 goals.

Forward pocket – Jarryd Blair
Worked his way from the rookie list to being a premiership player at the age of 20 in 2010, impressing as a high-pressure small forward. Blair kicked a career-high 26 goals in 2011, resulting in the first of four top-ten finishes in the best and fairest. He remained a key player for the Magpies as they experienced a drop in on-field success, before being delisted after losing his place in the team in 2018. Blair played 157 games for 121 goals.

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Full forward – Jesse White
The Pies haven’t had a wealth of key forwards apart from Travis Cloke this decade, but White was an honest contributor in his 56 games after joining from Sydney at the end of 2013. During some tough years, White kicked 75 goals before retiring at the end of 2017.

Forward pocket – Jamie Elliott
The high-flying small forward has been an excitement machine since his debut in 2012. Elliott had a breakout year in his second season, kicking 30 goals and taking the mark of the year, resulting in the first of three top-ten finishes in the Copeland Trophy. A two-time leading goalkicker for the club, Elliott has experienced serious injury problems, missing the entire 2016 and 2018 seasons. Bounced back strongly this year and will be looking to add to his 105 games and 164 goals in the new decade.

Ruckman – Brodie Grundy
A highly-touted draft prospect who slipped all the way to pick 18 in 2012, Grundy has developed into not only the best ruckman in the game, but one of the best players altogether. After two consecutive top-ten finishes in the Copeland Trophy, Grundy was a joint winner with Steele Sidebottom in 2018, before winning his second outright in 2019. The 132-gamer also finished in the top ten of the Brownlow Medal in both of those years.

Ruck rover – Scott Pendlebury (Captain)
Pendlebury has been arguably the most consistent player across the league during the decade. This is highlighted by an incredible six All Australian selections, three Anzac Day Medals, one Norm Smith Medal in a premiership side and an AFLCA Champion Player of the Year award. Only one player has won more Copeland Trophy awards than Pendlebury’s five, while he has managed a top ten finish in the best and fairest every single season between 2010 and 2019. During the decade, Pendlebury played 225 games and kicked 135 goals, finishing in the top ten of the Brownlow Medal five times.

Rover – Dane Swan
Not many have a CV as long as Scott Pendlebury’s, but Dane Swan certainly does. One of the best ball winners in the league, Swan finished third in the Brownlow medal in 2010, before winning the award one year later with a whopping 34 votes. Despite being regarded as one of the best players in the modern era, Swan won just one club best and fairest in the decade, finishing second or third in four other years. Four of Swan’s five All Australian selections came in the decade, while he’s an AFLCA Champion Player of the Year winner and a two-time Anzac Day Medallist.

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Swan announced his retirement in 2016 after a badly broken foot suffered in the opening minutes of Collingwood’s Round 1 clash that year.

Interchange – Tyson Goldsack
An incredibly popular member of the playing group, Goldsack is the only premiership player from 2010 who didn’t play in the drawn grand final. Predominantly a tall defender, Goldsack was capable of swinging forward, highlighted by the 24 goals he kicked in the 2012 season. His 2014 campaign would result in a top ten finish in the Copeland Trophy, but injuries would restrict him from then on, as he managed just 41 games over his last five seasons.

After suffering a torn ACL in the pre-season of 2018, Goldsack would recover in time to make it back for the finals, with his final match coming in the grand final.

Interchange – Dale Thomas
Was one of the best players in the league at his peak during 2010, resulting in a top-three finish in the club best and fairest. A year later, Thomas was named All Australian for the first time. His form would slowly drop away, not helped by injuries, before he joined Carlton as a free agent at the end of 2013.

Carlton Blues player Dale Thomas

Dale Thomas was never forgiven by the Pies faithful for crossing to the old enemy. (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

Interchange – Taylor Adams
Has been a consistent, albeit slightly injury-prone performer since joining from the Giants at the end of 2013. The hard-nosed midfielder managed four consecutive top-ten finishes in the Copeland Trophy between 2015 and 2018, falling just one vote short of being a joint winner in 2017. That year, Adams also polled a career-high 14 Brownlow Medal votes. He is the co-vice-captain of the club.

Interchange – Brayden Maynard
The spirited defender has been a constant in the line-up since 2015, playing 97 games since his debut. He has finished in the top ten of the Copeland Trophy three years running, including a personal best fifth place in a career-best campaign in 2019.

Are the Magpies placed better or worse going into the new decade compared to ten years ago?
It’s roughly the same. In 2009, the Pies were among the top handful of teams in the competition, eventually resulting in very strong 2010 and 2011 campaigns.

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Collingwood are as good a flag chance as any heading into 2020, especially if Dayne Beams can return to his best. Buckley looks very comfortable in the head coach position, a far cry from just a couple of seasons ago, and he appears to be the man to lead the Magpies to a record-equalling 16th premiership in the new decade.