COLLINGWOOD fans have endured a frustrating period — four finals-free years in a row and just one finals win since making the 2011 Grand Final.
The Magpies have finished 11th, 12th, 12th and 13th over the past four seasons, but there is an upside, and president Eddie McGuire says he has “never felt more buoyant” about the future.
Here are eight reasons Collingwood can improve in 2018.
1 FAVOURABLE FIXTURE
Champion Data has rated Collingwood’s 2018 fixture the easiest of any club. The Magpies face double-up matches against Richmond, Essendon, Fremantle, Carlton and the Brisbane Lions. It is easier than their 2017 draw, which was ranked the seventh hardest. The club also travels the equal-least of any side, with only five interstate matches and 11 of its first 13 games in Melbourne.
2 MOORE TO GIVE
Entering his fourth AFL season and with 47 games under his belt, the Magpies hope Darcy Moore can have a breakout year. Moore, who turns 22 in January, did not set the world on fire but had a solid 2017, kicking 25 goals from 21 games. Collingwood has confirmed he has been slated for a switch to defence next season. But whatever his role, a big year from him would go a long way towards Collingwood securing a finals spot.
3 MORE WELLS (HOPEFULLY)
One of last summer’s key recruits, Daniel Wells had an impact in season 2017but it was significantly restricted by fitness and injury. Wells played only 10 games but the club scored seven wins and a draw from those matches. Collingwood won only two of its 12 outings without Wells. The silky midfielder is clearly important and returned to pre-season training early this off-season in a bid to get his body right. While he turns 33 in February, he is still capable of having a big influence.
Last season was tarred by constant speculation about the future of coach Nathan Buckley. Continual questions were asked of the man himself and his players, which no doubt would have been a distraction. In late August, Buckley signed a new two-year deal, which the Magpies hope reduces the heat in the situation. Yes, Buckley will still come under scrutiny if results don’t come, but it surely won’t be as intense as in 2017.
5 THAT REVIEW
Collingwood conducted a “full review of the football department” late last season to try to uncover reasons for its on-field struggles and four consecutive years without finals. There were plenty of takeaways from it, most notably the recommendation to appoint Buckley as senior coach for another two years. While many of the details of the review have not been made public, president Eddie McGuire said he had “never felt more buoyant” about the future of the club on the back of the review and some changes that have already been made. The club has also appointed two new assistant coaches since Buckley’s reappointment — Justin Longmuir and Garry Hocking — and Matthew Boyd has come on as a development coach.
Collingwood’s midfield is powerful. Champion Data ranked it as the best entering the 2017 season and the numbers from the campaign suggest that was not far off. The Magpies ranked second in disposals, fifth in clearances and sixth in inside 50s. It’s also worth noting Wells missed 12 games, Jordan De Goey 8 and Scott Pendlebury 6. If that trio can play more minutes next year, they will form a formidable onball brigade with Adam Treloar and Taylor Adams.
7 FORWARD CONNECTIVITY
Collingwood’s biggest problem was no secret this year — hitting targets inside 50 and finding the goals. The Magpies averaged 4.3 inside 50s per goal, ranked 15th. Their scoring accuracy was even worse, coming in at 55.3 per cent, which ranked them 16th. Improving these areas will no doubt be the focus of the off-season.
8 STABLE LIST
Unlike some clubs, there haven’t been any major changes to Collingwood’s list over the off-season. Jesse White (four matches in 2017) and Ben Sinclair (0 games) have been the only two retirees, with all other changes being delistings. The Magpies also have a young list that should only improve next year, with 17 of the 22 players who lined up in the club’s final home-and-away game being aged under 26 at the time. That bodes well for the future.