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Collingwood will prove that they’re not a one-season wonder in 2023

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Roar Pro
12th March, 2023
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Straight after Craig McRae was appointed coach of the Pies at the end of the 2021 season, a sense of uncertainty surrounded the club due to rare changes and untested new ideas.

To fill the void left by a club legend in the form of Nathan Buckley after 10 years in charge would inevitably be an enormous challenge with extra pressure to deliver at one of the AFL’s most prestigious sides.

At the same time though, the lower expectations created the potential to play with no fear and have less pressure on their shoulders, something Collingwood demonstrated last season as they impressively punched above their weight as McRae made an immediate impact.

Arguably one of the most fascinating teams to follow during 2022, the Pies were the definition of clutch, sealing an astounding nine of their 17 wins by seven points or less.

Doubters and haters were quick to express that those games were a fluke and a good amount of fortune placed into the lap of the Magpies.

Only, it was anything but a fluke.

Early throughout the campaign, it was clear to understand the game plan and patterns of play that pushed McRae’s men to a preliminary final against all odds.

Zac Williams and Adam Saad of the Blues look dejected as Jordan De Goey and Nick Daicos of the Magpies celebrate.

Zac Williams and Adam Saad of the Blues look dejected as Jordan De Goey and Nick Daicos of the Magpies celebrate. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)


High pressure from defence to attack to suffocate any opponent, fast-paced footy, and quick combination play along with displaying strong unity were the main blueprints to a successful season.

The good news? They have the same fundamentals to make another deep push in September.

Earlier this year, a change in leadership paved the way for influential hero Scott Pendlebury to step down and hand over the captaincy to elite defender Darcy Moore.

The 27-year-old takes on the responsibility at the perfect time, rediscovering his form and confidence after a tough individual start last season. New perspective and direction can always be positive, as Pendlebury will still display his leadership qualities with or without the tag.

Injured throughout most of last year, Brodie Grundy’s trade to the Demons may not seem like the biggest disaster. Mason Cox and Darcy Cameron have proven themselves more than capable of stepping up in the big games, especially Cox who found some form again towards the latter stages of 2022. Watch out for 19-year-old South Australian Oscar Steene, who will be given opportunities to break through.

They have the right personnel around the ball to break open play. Last season the Pies had seven players in the top 100 for the most clearances, tied first with Geelong and the Bulldogs.

As mentioned, the relentless pressure that Collingwood displayed throughout most of last season is a testament to their work rate and camaraderie within the group, which will ultimately set up the foundations for further progress.


Aside from the Swans, the 15-time premiers were the most dominant side in the tackling department, averaging 63.4 tackles and 11.3 tackles inside 50 under McRae.

Balance is everything when it comes down to building consistency and long-term success, something which Collingwood has up forward with the correct number of tall figures and smalls to offer great versatility. 

Fans of the black and white should be excited that this depth has been further strengthened with the additions of Bobby Hill and Daniel McStay to accompany an already talented frontline with the likes of Jamie Elliott, Jack Ginnivan, Will Hoskin-Elliott, Ash Johnson, and Brody Mihocek.

Add in the capability of Cox and Cameron to take key contested marks, you can’t help but feel that this sense of stability will cause havoc and fear amongst any team in the competition.

Although a lot of things were uncertain around the club before McRae’s arrival, it was always expected that midfield would be one of the Pies’ strong points which won’t change anytime soon.

Former Brownlow medalist Tom Mitchell is a brilliant pickup from the draft, who will no doubt gel into the system surrounded by other talents such as Pendlebury, Taylor Adams, Jack Crisp, Steele Sidebottom, and the Daicos brothers.

Josh Daicos of the Magpies gathers the ball

(Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

That core midfield group will prove instrumental in the transition game that the Pies want to emulate and take the game on with the right intensity. 

Safe to say, nothing was more unexpected than the incredible rise of Nick Daicos, who ran the show at half-back with his raw skill and talent which surprised many at his young age.

It’s been widely reported that the 20-year-old Rising Star winner will be exposed to more time in the midfield. If this is true, expect him to be a dark horse for the Brownlow come season’s end with his disposals increasing and the opening created to demonstrate his footy nous.

Overcoming adversity with the unfortunate events taking place involving the likes of Ginnivan and De Goey only galvanised the team even more to play their best footy. The latest scandal involving Ginnivan and his use of illicit drugs shouldn’t derail the squad if anything from last season is to go by.

It would be unfair to refer to Collingwood as ‘lucky’ and a ‘one-season wonder’ after the consistent performances they put in along with going on an 11-match winning streak down the stretch last year.

No one will want to play them, including the reigning premiers. Let’s not forget that the Pies were 30 points up at three quarter-time early in the season and narrowly lost by six points in the qualifying final against the Cats. Underestimating them would be a massive mistake. 


Finally, it’s worth mentioning just how composed and level-headed McRae has been in front of the media. The way he handles pressure by not getting too down during difficult periods and at the same time pulling his players back down to reality after a string of victories only speaks volumes to the 49-year-old’s maturity and experience.

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No doubt this is a representation of how he addresses the locker room and motivates his players.

Collingwood supporters can expect another rollercoaster season of emotions made up of more highs than lows.