Collingwood Magpies coming good at right time: Buckley
Collingwood say they are building the right way towards a third consecutive AFL grand final appearance.
COLLINGWOOD say they are building the right way towards a third consecutive AFL grand final appearance.
Magpies coach Nathan Buckley believes his side has improved 10 to 15 per cent per match over the past three weeks, and can improve further in the preliminary final showdown with Sydney at ANZ Stadium on Friday night.
Collingwood’s hard-fought 13-point semi-final win over West Coast at the MCG has lifted them to within a victory of the grand final.
And despite just a six-day break ahead of the preliminary final, they have an excellent recent record against the Swans – beating them in their past 11 meetings.
“We think that one has us building to where we want to be,” Buckley said.
“We still feel there’s some upside in us. The last three weeks have been 10 or 15 per cent (improvement) on top of each other.
“Now we’ve got to go again.
“Internally we could feel the difference in the way we played against Essendon, against Hawthorn and now.”
The Magpies’ up-and-down season and slow burn over the past month was encapsulated perfectly in Saturday’s 10.13.73 to 9.6.60 win.
Trailing by 23 points early and struggling, the Magpies lifted their tackling pressure in an enthralling second quarter, before Dale Thomas lit up the match with three goals in six third-quarter minutes to swing the match Collingwood’s way.
Yet again they fell behind in the fourth term before more guts finally led to glory.
Buckley felt Thomas’ contribution was important and timely after a difficult season marred by niggling injuries.
“Like the club itself, Dale’s been scrutinised and criticised fairly heavily over the last period of time,” Buckley said.
“Great quality, (he has) a great deal of pride in his performance, he’s the type of guy who loves the big stage and has always played well in finals.
“He and the club would have liked to have had a smoother season.
“But sometimes it’s not about where you start, it’s where you finish.
“We believe over the last two or three weeks, we’ve played as good footy as we have all year, and it’s a good time to be doing that.”
And in an ominous sign for Sydney, Swans coach John Longmire agrees, noting the challenge awaiting on Friday night would be more immense than the test they failed on 11 August when the Pies beat the Swans by eight points.
“He (Dale Thomas) didn’t play much against us last time, and (Dane) Swan didn’t play either,” he said.
“So their midfield has been strengthened since last time we played.”
The Magpies also boast ruck talent and former Sydney player Darren Jolly, who is making a mockery of the workload that comes without a back-up ruckman in the team.
“He’s almost in career-best form. His ruck work has been outstanding. He’s running around now doing 95 per cent of the ruck work, if not more,” Longmire said.
“He’s been fantastic. That’s a real challenge for our ruckmen, to make sure Darren Jolly’s influence on the ground is reduced.”
Longmire confirmed on Monday key defender Heath Grundy would take hamstrung Ben McGlynn’s place in the side that defeated Adelaide by 29 points in week one of the finals.
He wouldn’t rule out further changes to the team that will battle the Magpies for a place in the grand final.
“Heath will come straight back in and what else we put around that – we’re still yet to settle on that,” he said.
Meanwhile Hawthorn are eagerly awaiting their chance to confirm an AFL Grand Final spot when they meet the Adelaide Crows at the MCG on Saturday. - AAP