Steeled Collingwood primed for AFL premiership tilt


Defender Brayden Maynard knows exactly what's different about this Collingwood team's premiership tilt: they're actually ready for it.

The Magpies enjoyed a dazzling run to the preliminary final in Craig McRae's first season in 2022 but fell desperately short of a grand final berth.

A year on, McRae's charges are minor premiers and believe they belong in the league's upper echelon.

"We are a lot more prepared this year than last year," Maynard told AAP.

"I felt like we were running on a lot of adrenalin last year."

Nick Daicos's stunning move into the midfield, and Jordan De Goey and Josh Daicos kicking up a gear have all helped Collingwood's rise.

But former skipper Scott Pendlebury has consistently cited the "body of work" the Magpies have put in since last season's preliminary final heartbreak as the foundation of this year's outstanding campaign.

Veteran defender Jeremy Howe agrees.

"We didn't really set a limit on where we could get to last year because we were trying to find out what our best footy looked like," Howe told AAP.

"We feel like we really uncovered a pretty strong game plan and everyone got on this emotional ride and felt really good. We won 10 or 11 in a row and away we go.

"But then this year was, 'There's expectation, teams are coming for us, where's it going to get to?'.

"The 12 months (before) we laid a foundation of where to start from.

"Now we're starting right up here. So let's just tighten the screws and see if we can get better.

"To the boys' credit, and the coaches', the way that the pre-season rolled out, the way that the year's unfolded ... to finish top is really pleasing.

"It's affirmation for what we've been able to do in the summer and in the season. The main stuff starts now."

McRae earned plaudits last year for building a culture in which players were encouraged to express themselves.

Winger Josh Daicos reckons that's only grown amid a seamless captaincy transition from Pendlebury to Darcy Moore.

"It's a really great environment where everyone can be themselves," Daicos told AAP.

"Everyone has a great time walking through the doors ready to get to work. We love seeing one another.

"We've just got a real clarity out there about what we need to do for one another and what it takes to win."

Defender Isaac Quaynor makes Collingwood's September plans clear.

"We're here to go all the way," he said.

Maynard is certain Collingwood has the mettle to do it.

"We have such a great connection and bond in this whole group. I don't feel like I've had this sort of relationship and connection with as many teammates in the past," Maynard said.

"I absolutely love this group and I feel like we are going to cause some serious damage because that's the main thing: playing for each other.

"And we play harder for longer."