30/05/2024
Collingwood fell to its lowest finish in 2021 since 1999, and will be doing everything under new coach Craig McRae to change that this season.

Collingwood fell to its lowest finish in 2021 since claiming the wooden spoon in 1999, and with a fresh coaching team, it will be hoping that this year is a cake-walk.

Last season:

17th (6-0-16)

Collingwood went through significant changes in 2021, with Nathan Buckley departing the club mid-season. On-field, Collingwood celebrated the debut of nine players, but this meant there wasn’t consistency in team selection each week as the side endured a number of injuries.

The Queen’s Birthday clash in Round 13 was the highlight of Collingwood’s season, beating ladder-leaders Melbourne by 17 points in Buckley’s farewell match. With a five-point win against Adelaide a week before, the two-game winning streak was Collingwood’s best for the season.

Despite struggling to get the wins on the board, Collingwood could rely on its big names including Jack Crisp, Scott Pendlebury, and Taylor Adams to provide in the midfield and halfback.

Ins:

Nick Daicos (Pick 4 – Oakleigh Chargers), Charlie Dean (Pick 2 Rookie Draft – Williamstown), Arlo Draper (Pick 45 – South Adelaide), Harvey Harrison (Pick 52 – North Adelaide), Nathan Kreuger (Traded – Geelong Cats), Patrick Lipinski (Traded – Western Bulldogs), Cooper Murley (Pick 49 – Norwood). 

Outs:

Levi Greenwood (Retired), Anton Tohill (Retired), Mark Keane (Retired), Max Lynch (Traded – Hawthorn), Chris Mayne (Retired), Jay Rantall (Delisted), Brayden Sier (Delisted), Josh Thomas (Retired).

Track watch:

Mason Cox is looking to have a prescription pair of sunglasses approved by the AFL after trialing wearing a pair during the preseason to avoid any further career-threatening eye injuries to add a layer of protection to the six eye surgeries he has already undergone. 

It will see the American wear the glasses during day games and potentially night games given the floodlights at the MCG.

A hairline fracture in his left leg sidelined Scott Pendlebury in December and precautionary measures were taken as the knock occurred near the injury he sustained that sidelined him for the final four rounds of 2021. 

Captain Pendlebury has returned to training and has subsequently lifted concerns that injuries would set him back this year.

After requesting a trade to Collingwood in last year’s trade period, former Western Bulldog Pat Lipinski has wasted no time settling into his new side, working hard at training to prove why he is worthy of Round 1 selection.

More AFL news:

AFL 2022 Season Preview: Adelaide – More growing pains in store?

AFL 2022 Season Preview: Brisbane – Will the Lions roar?

2022 AFL Season Preview: Carlton – Is the third reset the charm?

What to look forward to:

Collingwood’s young guns featured last season and proved why they should be a regular in the side’s best 23. Josh Daicos is only bound to further cement his position in the midfield.

He will play alongside his younger brother, Nick Daicos, who is expected to be just as, if not better than his older brother. 

Finlay Macrae also impressed in the midfield and managed nine appearances in 2021, averaging 12.7 touches in a midfield that is hard to stand out in. Caleb Poulter also accumulated some game time, appearing 11 times and averaging 15 disposals. Poulter looks most comfortable along the wing, swiftly moving the ball down forward and finding his teammates, or when confident, pushing forward himself and threatening in front of goal.

Beau McCreery and Oliver Henry found their feet in front of goal, kicking 11 from 13 and seven from 10 respectively adding to the talented small to medium-sized forwards. With the retirement of Josh Thomas, and Jamie Elliott pushing for more midfield time, McCreery and Henry will almost be guaranteed more time to slot the ball between the middle sticks. 

It’s a big year for:

Finlay Macrae was dubbed one of Collingwood’s best recruits in the 2020 national Draft, being selected with pick 19. Macrae shares similar attributes to his brother, Jack, the Western Bulldogs premiership player and two-time All-Australian and can potentially be as good as his big brother.

In his nine games, Macrae stayed calm under pressure, moved the ball well on both feet, and slotted himself well in among the star-studded Pies midfield. 

Collingwood saw Macrae’s best against Port Adelaide in Round 19, where the 19-year-old picked up 21 disposals, five marks, and three clearances. After showing that he is more than capable to achieve a 20 plus disposal match, Macrae will need to string together a few more of these performances in 2022 to define himself as another quality Collingwood midfielder.

With Scott Pendlebury and Steele Sidebottom nearing the end of their career, 2022 is crucial for Macrae to prove his ability in the midfield and work hard to secure a regular position. 

He’ll be battling against Caleb Poulter and Trent Bianco who both had standout seasons in 2021 despite it being early on in their careers, but it’s Macrae’s versatility, quick thinking, and composure that could just win him a spot over the other young Pies.

Biggest unanswered question:

How long does the rebuild take?

Putting aside the fact that Collingwood will be led by a new coach for the first time in over a decade, 2022 will continue on from the list’s rebuild after a horrid trade period in 2020. Virtually everyone was left in utter shock that Adam Treloar, Jaidyn Stephenson, and Tom Phillips practically departed the club for free.

The 2021 trade season was much more of a success and the fire sale from the year before, while never unforgettable, may have made slightly more sense. Bringing in Pat Lipinksi and Nathan Kreuger as well as Nick Daicos and some promising picks in Arlo Draper and Charlie Dean through the draft, it’s evident that Collingwood’s list management had a long-term plan ahead rather than just a season by season.

The question is though, can the Pies use rebuilding as an excuse this year if things go pear-shaped? The younger Pies showed in 2021 that they are capable of performing alongside some of the club’s biggest names, the backline held itself strong and despite Collingwood’s loss count, there were many things to pull out of the regular back six that impressed, including Isaac Quaynor’s breakout season.

Without results this year though, Collingwood fans will be left frustrated and will want more answers than ‘we’re working on learning to be a team’. 

While there may be some leniency for the newer players, those players that linger around being the most in the form of Jordan De Goey, Jamie Elliott, and Will Hoskin-Elliott will need to string injury-free and consistent performances together. These players are so very capable of being game-winners for the Pies and have a lot to teach the younger players in consistency and reliability.

If the older players can mix in with those players in the first, second, and even third years, the ‘rebuilding’ stage for the Pies could finally be over this year.

Coach pressure index:

Low

It’s a new era for Collingwood as Craig McRae begins his tenure at the helm, taking over Nathan Buckley who led the Magpies for 10 years. For McRae, this season will be his honeymoon period, with leeway for him to settle and find his groove. After Collingwood’s 17th place finish in 2021, McRae will endeavor to lead his team to a better finish this year at the very least. 

McRae is also supported this season with new assistant coaches, Justin Leppitsch and Brendon Bolton. Both new fresh faces to the club which may be just what Collingwood needs to return to form. While finals may be a dream just out of reach, if McRae can improve on six wins for the season, his appointment will prove to be the right decision.

https://twitter.com/CollingwoodFC/status/1432978972023816192?s=20&t=RAls0IMDY_KbuiEAACTZvQ

Predicted Round 1 lineup:

Ladder range:

12th-15th

With so many changes made at the club over the last nine months, it’s hard to predict exactly which way 2022 will go for Collingwood. One thing for sure is that any improvement from finishing 17th will be a sign that the changes made were the right ones.

The young Pies will have to prove that last year was no fluke for them and continue to impress particularly in the midfield and forward, while the back six should remain unchanged from last year and continue to do what it does best.

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