Andrew Krakouer
Andrew Krakouer

Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley is looking forward to the challenge of facing 'the competition's best side' next week after seeing off Essendon at the MCG on Saturday night.

The Magpies, who climbed into fourth position, booked a place in the qualifying final against minor premiers Hawthorn - a match to be played at the MCG on Friday night - with a 32-point win inspired by Travis Cloke.

After two consecutive losses against North Melbourne and West Coast, Buckley was happy with certain aspects of the performance but noted further improvement was needed.

"I thought our contested ball and hunt around the contest was excellent tonight and our defence and willingness to press up in our front half was a lot better," he said in his post-match press conference.

"We didn't use the ball particularly well and we'll have to sharpen up in that area."

The Hawks have won 11 of their last 12 games - their only loss against Geelong after the siren - and Buckley was under no illusions of the challenge his team faces.

"(We need to) try and keep the ball out of their hands, and try and pressure the ball carrier as much as we can," he said.

"They're very surgical with their skills, they kick it very well, they run very hard, they defend very well and they're a good contested ball side.

"They're going to be a huge challenge but as I said we're more than comfortable with our lot and where we are at and (are) looking forward to the challenge."

Buckley was proud his charges had made the top four after a difficult first season in charge.

"In many ways this club's been through as much as anyone and we believe that our challenges and obstacles have been fairly significant and we have been able to get through," he said.

"(We have used) 36 players and seven debutants throughout the 23 rounds and we'll have 22 fit and firing ready to represent the club on Friday night we believe, that's what we are setting ourselves for."

A return to form for Travis Cloke was welcome as the power forward kicked 5.4 and hauled in a career-high 16 marks - including seven contested grabs.

"Cloke's efforts tonight were excellent. His movement was good, his marking was excellent and he kicked a few goals, which is what you expect from your forwards," Buckley said.

Buckley left the door open for omitted forward Chris Dawes, saying he will 'assess what we need for Hawthorn' during the week.

Injured small forward Jarryd Blair is likely to return after Buckley endorsed his selection for next week.

"Blair could have played tonight but we thought (leaving him out) was going to set him up best for next week," he said.

And Andrew Krakouer returned from a knee reconstruction to collect 11 disposals in what Buckley described as an 'excellent' comeback.


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