19/04/2024

Can Collingwood back up its 2021, the club's best season to date? (Photo: AFLW)

After its best AFLW season last year and retaining almost the entirety of its core squad, can Collingwood take it all the way in 2022?

After a historically-best finish in 2021, Collingwood approaches 2022 with what will be a very similar squad, as it attempts to take it that final step further and threaten for a spot in the Grand Final.

Last season:

Third (7-0-2)

2021 was no doubt Collingwood’s best season in the AFLW, making it all the way through to the preliminary final against Brisbane, but falling devastatingly short of its inaugural Grand Final appearance all within the last quarter.

The Pies managed six wins on the trot from Round 1, before being handed their first defeat of the season also at the hands of Brisbane. Their only other loss of the season came two games later to Adelaide, letting the top-of-the-ladder spot slip away.

Collingwood’s qualifying final win against North Melbourne was one for the club’s record books, being the club’s first winning AFLW final.

Co-captain Brianna Davey had her best season yet and was equal AFLW best and fairest recipient for her work in the midfield, and was also awarded the club’s best and fairest. It was a breakout season for half-back Ruby Schleicher who was a welcome regular addition to the Pies backline supporting Stacey Livingstone.

What to look forward to:

Collingwood will push again this year to make it all the way to the Grand Final, and are in a position to do so after retaining most of its 2021 side which impressed across all positions of the ground.

Little changes have been made to its line up, but the inclusion of key forward Sabrina Frederick as well as the VFLW’s leading goalkicker Imogen Barnett to support Chloe Molloy makes Collingwood look dangerous up forward; the club placing third for most goals (63) in 2021, only behind Adelaide and Brisbane.

Its midfield line up, which remains the most unchanged from previous years, sees the likes of Davey, Steph Chiocci, Brittany Bonnici and Jaimee Lambert once again an unstoppable quartet. They easily push the ball up forward once in their hands and apply pressure that makes any other midfield work harder to secure the ball.

Biggest unanswered question:

Collingwood play a simple style of football, and while it works against most opponents, failed last season against the league’s powerhouse clubs, Adelaide and Brisbane.

It was a game style that revolved around the ball remaining in the hands of the Pies, which contributed to many larger winning margins (St Kilda, 46 points; Geelong, 29 points; North Melbourne, restricted to no goals, eight behinds).

While controlling the ball worked extremely well for the Pies, questions arise if this style has become predictable to other clubs now, and will it ever be good enough up against the Crows and the Lions?

Under the pressure of those two sides, Collingwood was forced to turn over the ball regularly despite being the league’s leading disposal, handball and mark getters. It couldn’t keep up with the intensity and ability the Crows and Lions have in shutting down their opponents.

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It’s a big year for…

With the retirement of Sharni Norder last season, Collingwood needed to find a regular to fill in the ruck position, and already had Erica Fowler on its list to make a permanent position into the role.

Collingwood also drafted Alison Downie and Imogen Purcell in this year’s draft and if the practice match against Melbourne is any indication, they’ll also offer assistance in the role.

For Fowler though, who was second for the gig behind Norder, it’s her year to prove her ruck abilities and cement the position ahead of her drafted teammates.

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Fowler also can move down back, but with a hard line-up too to crack in, her chance of securing a permanent position comes from being the Pies’ number one ruck.  

In numbers, 2021 was Fowler’s best year yet, and with Norder out of the side, it’ll give Fowler the opportunity to enhance her game and get more of the ball (57 disposals in 2021).

Fixture highlights:

It’s an overused cliché, but Collingwood will be out for revenge against Brisbane when it travels to Maroochydore in Round 5. The contest was tight from the get-go, with Collingwood holding the slight upper hand, including its two-point lead at the final change.

Brisbane held strong though to win by four points and secure a spot in the Grand Final against Adelaide, the sides meeting for the second time on the big stage since the inaugural decider in 2017.

Full fixture:

R1: vs. Carlton, Jan 9 (Ikon Park)

R2 vs. St Kilda, Jan 15 (Victoria Park)

R3: vs. Geelong, Jan 21 (GMHBA Stadium)

R4: vs. Fremantle, Jan 30 (Victoria Park)

R5: vs. Brisbane, Feb 5 (Maroochydore)

R6: vs. West Coast, Feb 12 (Victoria Park)

R7: vs. North Melbourne, Feb 18 (UTAS Stadium)

R8: vs. Western Bulldogs, Feb 27 (Victoria Park)

R9: vs. Adelaide, TBC (Norwood Oval)

R10: vs. Gold Coast, TBC

Ins/outs:

Ins: Imogen Barnett (Collingwood VFLW), Eloise Chaston (Eastern Ranges), Alison Downie (delisted free agent, Carlton), Sabrina Frederick (Richmond), Eliza James (Oakleigh Chargers)

Outs: Abbey Green, Sharni Norder (retired), Maddie Shevlin (Richmond), Kristy Stratton (delisted)

Inactive: Jordan Membrey (ACL)

Round 1 line-up:

Photos: Collingwood AFLW. Design: Will Cuckson

Ladder range:

First-Fourth

Rounds 4-9 are the most defining for the Pies in 2022, having to play four of 2021’s finalists within six weeks including away games to Adelaide and Brisbane.

Also having to face Melbourne and Fremantle, which finished third and fourth respectively in 2021, sets a challenge for Collingwood but one quite possible to accomplish.

Despite a considerably tougher fixture than last year, Collingwood’s incredible depth and simple, yet effective game style will have the team back in finals at the very least, and maybe, just maybe, finally make it all the way to the Grand Final.

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