Why even Pies might be team to beat
IT was a devastating end to 2019 for Collingwood fans.
After entering the preliminary final as short-priced favourites, a disappointing three quarters left them just short of the Giants at the final siren.
But with more of their best back and an experienced group, there is no doubt they will be contenders again.
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Here's eight reasons why the Pies will excel in 2020.
1. TOP CONTENDER
It's hard not to get excited about a team that shapes as one of the leading contenders to win the 2020 premiership. The Magpies were a kick away from a second consecutive Grand Final last September, but fell Greater Western Sydney by four points in a preliminary final. From that team, only one player has left the club during the off-season - James Aish to Fremantle. That bodes well for Collingwood to have another crack at going all the way as it looks to secure its first premiership under coach Nathan Buckley and first flag overall since 2010.
2. THIRD-BEST LIST
If the Magpies' form of the past two seasons doesn't have you convinced they are a serious premiership contender next season, their list ranking might. Champion Data's number-crunchers rate Collingwood third for individual talent behind only reigning premier Richmond and the Western Bulldogs. Broken down into positions, the rankings suggest the Magpies are strong on every line. They rank fourth for talent in defence as well as their ruck stocks, while also rated fifth in both forward line and midfield.
3. MORE ADAMS
Including finals, Collingwood played 24 games last season. Taylor Adams featured in just 12 of those. The star midfielder and Magpies vice-captain was back in time for finals but missed a significant chunk of football in the middle of the season with a groin injury, as well as the opening two rounds. And it hurt. With Adams, Collingwood went 9-3 last season. Without him, the Pies went 7-5. The 26-year-old averaged 24.4 disposals and 5.6 clearances per game. He ranked first at Collingwood for score assists (average 1.5 per match), second for tackles (5.1) and equal-fourth for score involvements (6.3). A full campaign from Adams next season could well be the difference for the Magpies.
4. MORE STEPHENSON
Like Adams, forward Jaidyn Stephenson was sidelined for much of the year. A 10-match betting suspension meant the 2018 Rising Star Award winner returned for the start of finals. During Stephenson's absence, the Magpies' scoring average dropped from 92 points per match to 78 and the team won just six of 10 games. Stephenson sat as Collingwood's second-ranked forward behind Jordan De Goey and averaged 1.7 goals per game in 2019. If the Magpies can get that sort of return out of him across 22 games plus finals, they will be thrilled.
5. MORE MOORE
Key defender Darcy Moore was in the mid-year All-Australian teams of many experts last season. But by the end of the home-and-away rounds he had played only 15 of 22 games after another hamstring injury struck. A first All-Australian jacket looms for the versatile backman in 2020 if he can stay on the park. Moore was one of only two Collingwood players rated elite by Champion Data and averaged 14.8 disposals, 5.1 rebound 50s, 7.6 intercept possessions and 79 SuperCoach points per match last season. His strongest performances were in Collingwood's two finals and, at age 23, you sense the best is still to come from Moore.
6. BEAMS BACK?
This time last year, Dayne Beams was talked about as the big boost to Collingwood's midfield. But his first season back in black and white after four years at the Brisbane Lions did not go to plan. Beams managed just nine games, his season ending after Round 11 due to a hip problem and personal issues. The 2010 premiership player impressed when he was out on the field. Beams averaged 25.1 disposals, 4.6 clearances and kicked five goals from his nine matches. The Magpies announced in December that Beams was taking an indefinite break to focus on his mental wellbeing. If he can return to full health, the Magpies' already potent midfield - which includes Scott Pendlebury, Taylor Adams, Adam Treloar, Steele Sidebottom and Tom Phillips - will be a serious force to be reckoned with.
7. FORWARD SOLUTION?
Key forward and 2010 premiership player Ben Reid looked like he was set to sail into retirement after a largely luckless injury run last season. But he returned from a calf injury and did enough in Collingwood's preliminary final loss to the Giants to earn a new one-year deal. Since Round 9, 2017, Reid has played just 22 of a possible 60 AFL games. But former Essendon and St Kilda champion Brendon Goddard believes he can "once again become an important tall option" for the Magpies if he can get his body right in 2020.
8. EXPERIENCE COUNTS
Collingwood's list profile suggests now is the time to strike. The Magpies enter 2020 as the second-oldest list behind only Hawthorn, with an average age of 24.8 years. Not only that, they also rank as the second-most experienced side behind the Hawks with an average of 78.9 games played. In the preliminary final against GWS, Collingwood's had 15 players line up who were between the ages of 23 and 28. Traditionally, that has been a prime hitting zone for launching a premiership tilt.
CHAMPION DATA SAYS
THE Magpies have the third-best list heading into 2020. Their strength is clearly in the midfield and ruck group. They have 13 players who rate elite or above average - the equal most of any side.
HOW YOUR CLUB IS TRACKING
2015: 12th, 10W, 12L
2016: 12th, 9W, 13L
2017: 13th, 9W, 1D, 12L
2018: 2nd, 15W, 7L, GF
2019: 4th, 15W, 7L, PF