Pies urged to embrace AFL finals struggle

·2-min read

Collingwood are chasing AFL premiership glory the hard way, aiming to re-boot their finals campaign in Saturday night's knockout encounter with Fremantle.

But Craig McRae's messaging around the daunting task at hand - winning three straight finals to hoist the cup - is simple.

"Embrace the struggle," the coach said when asked about his instructions to the playing group.

"The struggle is the way.

"This is going to be a struggle, this game, and if you're lucky enough to get through there's going to be another struggle.

"That will be the message that I'll bring tomorrow."

Because of a narrow qualifying final defeat to Geelong, the Magpies must win sudden-death matches against Fremantle and Sydney to reach the grand final in McRae's first year at the helm.

It is a path a senior core of Collingwood players have been down before.

Four years ago, under Nathan Buckley, the Magpies recovered from a qualifying final defeat to West Coast with successive wins before losing to the same opponent in the season decider.

Veteran pair Steele Sidebottom and Scott Pendlebury were part of similar stories way back in 2012 and 2009.

In both of those years, Collingwood lost a qualifying final and rebounded the following week but fell to the eventual premiers in preliminary finals.

"We find ourselves in this great opportunity and this great spot again," Sidebottom told AAP.

"Because we have been in this spot before, we try and think back on what worked and what didn't and try and give advice.

"Whatever we can do to help us prepare as best as we can, we'll be doing it. I can't wait."

Collingwood will try to overcome their first hurdle by turning the Fremantle clash into a contested battle in an attempt to deny their opponents chances to run and carry the ball.

"They're a high uncontested marking team," McRae said.

"If they've had over 100 marks they haven't lost a game this year, so that's a part of the game we're going to be really wary of.

"If we can keep the game contested and a lot of pressure around it, that will help."

The forecast wet weather at the MCG could play into Collingwood's hands.

The Pies have been successful in slippery conditions this season, while the Dockers' record in the wet is comparatively poor.

"We love the rain," McRae said.

"I wouldn't say (Fremantle) don't but we've got a good record in the wet and it adds to a pressure game, which we like."