WE know the one about if your aunty had a beard she’d be your uncle (unless she won Eurovision, then it’s complicated) but if Collingwood had an ounce more luck in season 2015 they’d be your current premiership favourites.
Being premiership favourites and being morals to actually win the thing are also different prepositions but there are four key losses the Pies have suffered so far this season that had the result gone their way in most or all of them, we’d be truly staggered by the renaissance that footy side has had.
Most experts, usually accredited that title of expert by the internships they’ve completed at regional newspapers not by the Brownlow medals they’ve won, had the Magpies outside the eight this year, on the rebuild, a few years away.
And credit must go in this column to the work of the Bulldogs, in somewhat a similar position pre-season yet have exceeded those external expectations.
However, the Doggies’ ladder position befits the wondrous efforts of 2015 thus far; currently occupying a finals spot and look good things to sit on a chair when the music stops in September.
Collingwood on the other hand will look at the 8-6 record and rue what has been. Eight wins with another four, maybe five on offer on the run home, you’d still back them in for finals but one’s confidence would be waning.
But as aforementioned, four losses, four stiff losses, and if they had been different, its 12-2 and we’re looking at a premiership contender.
Before touching on the last three weeks, the fourth of the key losses goes back to Round 7 against the Tigers at the MCG, right at the same time soccer supremo Frank Lowy did a somersault with pike off the A-League victory dais. For the record he butchered it, he over-rotated badly.
Pies with a great start, Tigers with an even better second quarter to lead at the half, Pies hit back in the third and lead by a point into the last, it was a belter. Last five minutes of the game it’s all Collingwood, Jarrod Witts finally rewards the momentum and goals, brings the deficit to 5 points, alas the siren goes seconds later and the Maggies haven’t the time to get ahead once more.
So Rounds 13-15.
Fremantle in Perth, had the ladder leader where they wanted, played some terrific football, were a winning chance throughout. Jesse White has a shot to get it under a kick but misses crucially and a game they should’ve won ends up in an ‘L’.
Won’t matter against Hawthorn, even without Roughead the Pies just don’t beat the reigning premiers, it’s been donkeys years. That was the theory.
The Hawks never led by more than two goals during the game yet the young and impressive Pies hung around, hung around, and then in the last term got the prize for playing such an tough brand of football by going nine points ahead. Had you collectively asked the special comments men at the ground on whether at that point the Maggies would have been deserving winners, the answer must have been a resounding yes.
Hawthorn to their credit kicked two goals to regain the lead, yet the young Pies had more scoring shots, more contested possessions and more tackles, they definitely let another slip.
And then last night, had the home side on toast before half time, let them back out to a three goal lead but came home like a steam train.
The final play of the night encapsulated the previous three weeks, had Jamie Elliott completed the mark he would have had a shot after the siren to win, if he had totally missed the ball it was a mark to Travis Cloke in a region of the ground he might actually be confident to win the game also.
So what does this all mean? Some clubs will be fortunate with their final ladder position because the Magpies have stuffed up a potential top four finish?
What it does mean is that although the rhetoric will be around the Pies 8-6 record, finals are no longer a given, maybe they’re not as good as we all thought – well they are.
This is a young side, a very young side, let’s not forget that firstly, in the bottom three for age in the league. And young sides are usually as reliable as a Malaysian Airlines flight so disappointing performances will come up from time to time. However this side hasn’t had any.
Dane Swan is the only best 22 player over 30 years of age and the next oldest are the likes of Travis Cloke (28), Travis Varcoe and Scott Pendlebury (both 27).
A dozen of the team’s best players have played less than 70 games and played two debutants against Hawthorn who backed up last night again. It’s an incredibly young side, seemingly ahead of their time but performances say they’re ready.
Despite losing the last three weeks to arguably the two best sides in the comp and then an underperforming but still brilliant Port, the boys in black and white would have lost no friends, in fact may have increased their external perception.
The way they are playing the only thing missing from their performance has been the four points collected (goal kicking against Hawthorn aside).
The Magpies have averaged 88 tackles a game in the last three weeks, when you’re losing by a goal, or by a few seconds, a lot of what you’re then doing is right.
So the Pies entertain West Coast Saturday week and who knows what to expect. They have been stiff and are due for a win, the Eagles are a fantastic side and will go in favourites, the Pies are a young side still and a gratuitous ‘off the cliff’ loss, who knows?
Ladder position and win-loss aside, this emerging footy team under Buckley is on the rapid rise and let’s be balanced, with just a little more luck, a little more polish and we’d be talking about them in a very, very different way.