Anzac Day to test Magpies' AFL improvement

Michael Ramsey
Sidebottom has been on fire recently for the Pies. Pic: Getty

Forget the hot form of Steele Sidebottom and Brodie Grundy or the tactical shifts, trust is driving Collingwood's form surge ahead of the Anzac Day blockbuster against Essendon.

The Magpies are out to claim their third straight AFL win when they face the Bombers before a 90,000-strong crowd at the MCG on Wednesday.

After starting with losses to Richmond and Greater Western Sydney, they beat Carlton and then posted an outstanding victory over grand finalists Adelaide last week.

The superb form of evergreen midfielder Sidebottom, who had 43 disposals against Adelaide, and ruckman Grundy has helped the Magpies' cause, while first-year draftee Jaidyn Stephenson has been a revelation.

But after a tumultuous 2017 dominated by uncertainty about coach Nathan Buckley's job security,skipper Scott Pendlebury believes the Magpies have developed better on-field trust which is driving them to greater heights.

"I think we're starting to build the brand of footy we want to play," he said on Tuesday.

"All the great sides - Hawthorn, Geelong - it's all built on trust. It's built on being a cohesive unit and that's what we're aspiring to do.

"The challenge for every side is to get better every week. We played so well against Adelaide but it doesn't count for much come tomorrow.

"We know it's going to be intense, it's going to be hot at the start. We want to make sure we jump out of the gates ready to go."

Since it was first played in 1995, the Collingwood-Essendon Anzac Day clash has become the biggest AFL match outside the finals.

The Magpies have a 13-9 record, with a draw in '95 but Essendon beat them twice last season.

Essendon responded to two poor losses by defeating Port Adelaide last week, setting up a rare Anzac Day meeting where both sides are coming off strong wins.

"I think it's great," Pendlebury said.

"Both supporter bases will be flocking to the 'G tomorrow ... we'll be itching to get out there and play on such a big occasion."

With Taylor Adams and Darcy Moore yet to recover from hamstring injuries, the Pies have named an unchanged lineup.

The Bombers made one change, naming Jackson Merrett in place of goalsneak Orazio Fantasia (calf).