Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley said his side have plenty of work to do if they are to become premiership contenders again next season after they bowed out with a 26-point preliminary final loss to Sydney on Friday night.
Despite winning their last 11 matches against the Swans, Buckley's charges never seriously looked like keeping that streak going, beaten 13.18 (96) to 10.10 (70) in front of more than 57,000 fans at ANZ Stadium.
It's the first time in three seasons the Magpies won't be around on grand final day, with many believing the club's recent dominance may be about to wane.
While he said it's too early to assess their prospects going forward, Buckley concedes he has a big challenge on his hands to keep the proud club at the top of the competition.
"We've got a lot of work to do," a shattered Buckley said.
"At our best we've got enough talent and want and desire to beat the best sides but tonight is evidence that we've still got a lot of work to do.
"It's a harsh game, it's a hard game if you're not improving you're going to get swamped and you're going to go backwards."
Asked if he feels like the side have improved this season in what is the rookie coach's first year in charge, Buckley said: "It's hard for me to comment on (that).
"If you take it purely on our finish clearly we've made grand finals the last two years and we didn't make the grand final this year so there's a dip.
"But we all know there's different circumstances that come into play.
"We've had our hurdles and our fair share of ups and downs.
"We just haven't been able to cope with it well enough for long enough to position ourselves come September."
While the Swans came into the match after a week off, Collingwood had played two draining finals games and also had to deal with the emotional toll of John McCarthy's funeral on Thursday.
Buckley refused to blame his side's tricky build-up for the loss, preferring to praise their resolve and ability to fight until the end.
"What I do know is when we asked the group for something they gave everything they've got," he said.
"They didn't throw in the towel at any stage, they worked and threw their bodies in right to the end.
"And as a coach that's all you can ask for.
"Right from the start we were behind the eight ball ... we were pushing the proverbial uphill.
"But we didn't give up, we had blokes who still believed there was a chance and for the most part that's what our season was like."
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