Collingwood might be all but assured of finishing the regular season on top of the ladder, but their premiership credentials have been called into question by AFL greats Garry Lyon and Jonathan Brown. The Magpies have been the form team for most of 2023 but defeat to Brisbane last round means they have now lost three times in four games in an alarming drop-off at the back end of the season.
The devastating injury to Brownlow Medal fancy Nick Daicos is likely a major factor in a late-season form slump that leaves Collingwood needing to defy history to win the flag this year. Speaking about the plight of the Magpies on Fox Footy's On the Couch, Lyon and Brown discussed some of the alarming numbers facing coach Craig McRae's side.
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Lyon said the most worrying thing from a Collingwood perspective is unlike most premiership teams at the back end of a season, the Pies look "far from settled". A quick glance at some of Collingwood's statistics over the last couple of months only strengthens Lyon's argument.
AFL greats question Collingwood's premiership credentials
Over the last six weeks, the Pies rank second-last for inside 50s and ground balls, third-last for points against from clearances and are among the competition's bottom four clubs for points against and opposition scores per inside 50. “We talk about hitting this time of year having settled everything – the bottom line is they are far from settled,” Lyon said.
“We know the injuries are there and it’s not just run of the mill players. Their defence has just been opened up in a big, big way. These are not numbers from a team at the top of the ladder and can’t be moved now.”
Brown agreed that it was a disturbing development at Collingwood and insisted that historically speaking, the Magpies "can’t win a premiership" based on the current numbers they are throwing up. Brown's assertion is also backed up by the fact that 16 of the past 18 premiership winners have been among the top-six sides for scores from their front half - with Collingwood ranked a lowly 12th in that category. Collingwood would also have to become the first team in 10 years to have lost two or more of their final regular season matches, and gone on to win the grand final.
“You can’t win a premiership with those numbers historically,” Brown said. “I don’t think any team’s won a premiership like that. They’ve tipped over. Their three best players weren’t playing on the weekend (in skipper Darcy Moore, Nick Daicos and Jordan de Goey)... but it’s more than that. You can’t turn it on and off like a tap.”
Lyon added: “This is a big switch that needs flicking... and a flicked switch hasn’t happened too often in recent times. They were so good early in the piece... but those questions are real. They are going to have to defy history to get to where they want to go.”
Nathan Buckley sees positives in Collingwood slump
While Nathan Buckley admits he can't remember the last time he saw Collingwood's defence look so "shaky", the former Mapgies coach said one big positive the team can take is that it's happening now, and not during the finals.
“I haven’t seen that back six that shaky; a Collingwood team that shaky for a while – definitely not this year,” Buckley said. “Every side has had their personnel issues – if you're glass half full on Collingwood, it’s better to have it in the last month than in the next month.”
Collingwood's final regular season match is against 10th-placed Essendon, with a likely qualifying final against Melbourne in week one of the finals. The Demons won the last encounter between the two sides in round 13.
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