It’s no secret that Collingwood has mastered the art of winning close games, with many of the club’s matches on the run home into finals being under 10 points or less.
While some may put it down to just luck, over the pre-season there was a lot of work going into those final-minute scenarios. Speaking to the media on Monday, Collingwood captain Scott Pendlebury spoke on the club’s ability to win those close games.
The last time Collingwood faced the Cats, the Magpies dominated for the first three-quarters of the game before a final quarter surge from Geelong saw the Magpies going down by two goals.
While they worked a lot over the summer on those final moments of a match, the game against the Cats was a line-in-the-sand type moment for the Magpies.
“We certainly trained it all summer about close games any match plays we’re in, two minutes on the clock we would practice scenarios,” Pendlebury said.
“We feel like we’ve learned a lot especially from the Geelong game early in the year about being up. I think we’re almost up by 40 points in the third quarter and you’d come back, and you lose that game by about two goals.
“We feel like we’re better equipped to handle leads and protect them. There are certain things we’ve put in games where we feel like we’re a little bit better equipped but we seem to always find ourselves in a close game.
“I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing, but we feel comfortable in that situation and hopefully we can execute if we get into a close game. I’d prefer for my heart rate if it wasn’t that close, I think our fans would as well.”
While the final moments of Collingwood’s last match against Carlton may have felt chaotic to fans that watched on, it was anything but with the Magpies now in an excellent position to close out the final minutes of a game.
“I don’t know if anyone’s seen the reaction when we won against Carlton, I was pretty excited.
“I feel like we’re drilled, it doesn’t feel to me as chaotic as probably what the score line looks like and the movements. I feel like I know what people are going to do with the footy, I know how we want to defend, I know how we want to attack. We’re on the same page.
“We’re not relying on too much randomness to happen, and I think regardless if you win or lose those close games you want to know that you gave yourself the best chance to win it.
“I feel like we’ve just practiced it a lot. We know what we’re doing, [but] that doesn’t mean we’re always going to get it right, but it means we’ve got it right more often than not.”
While Pendlebury was optimistic at the start of the year for Collingwood to make the finals, not even he could predict the club’s rise back into premiership contention.
“Always in preseason you’re optimistic and you’re excited by the challenge of what we could do. I certainly thought this group could get back to finals but in terms of the year we’ve had, I don’t think anyone would predict winning as many close games as we have.
“The style of footy we’ve played, It’s been exciting.
“I said it a few weeks ago, I feel like if you don’t go for Collingwood anymore, you don’t hate us as much as you used to. You actually don’t mind flipping on our game and watching and people don’t mind us at the moment.
“So if we could be everyone’s second side for the finals, which is probably unlikely, I wouldn’t mind that.”
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One player who could be coming back into the side to face the Cats is co-vice captain Taylor Adams, with the 28-year-old saying that he’ll be good to go for the opening final if all goes to plan.
Pendlebury said while it’s great to have Adams back in, the Magpies aren’t a side that relies on one player to get them over the line.
“I think he [Adams] trained really well on Friday night. Just sort of ticking all the boxes so far, but he’s still going to get through this week,” he said.
“Hopefully he puts his hand up, but I think we’ve shown all year that we’re not a team that relies on certain players to come back in and play, we do it as a group.”
Collingwood will face Geelong on Saturday afternoon at the MCG for a place in the preliminary final, with the game kicking off at 4:35 pm.
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