The AFL finals are fast approaching and it seems that Collingwood has emerged as one of the favourites for the flag as we enter September. This is a real change from when I last wrote about Collingwood twelve weeks ago. Since then the Magpies have just lost one game and are the form team of the competition.
Whilst the Pies are an exciting team with loads of potential I feel that I need to put a few things into perspective. I feel that this team can beat anyone else in the AFL, even the mighty St Kilda and Geelong, but find that whenever I get too enthusiastic about Collingwood’s prospects that they find new ways to disappoint me. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that in my 36 years as a Collingwood supporter they have played in seven grand finals and only won once, the most recent loss being in 2003. It is true that they drew in 1977 before losing the replay, whilst in 1979 and 2002 we were probably robbed by poor umpiring decisions in the dying minutes of the final quarter, the fact remains that our finals record in that period is not something to boast about. (If I remember correctly in that time we have also lost two preliminary finals, the most recent being in 2007 to the dominant Geelong by three points!) I am trying not to get my hopes up too high because I don’t want to be bitterly disappointed, which is why I always try to tip against the Magpies. I’ve found that if I pick the opposing team to win against Collingwood that the Maggies will actually win, whilst if I tip the men in black and white to win they will lose. The last time I picked Collingwood to win was when they played Hawthorn a few weeks ago, when the Hawks humiliated them. I now try to not be too confident, arrogant or cocky whenever Collingwood play, even if they are playing against the hapless Richmond or the hopeless Melbourne.
The truth is that there are only two teams that I fear can stop Collingwood from winning the premiership. No, not Geelong or St Kilda, but Hawthorn and the Western Bulldogs. For some unknown reason Collingwood always play poorly against the Hawks, which is why I hope Essendon wins this week to deny the reigning premier a spot in the finals, whilst I feel that the Bulldogs match up well against us and always give us a close match. I feel that Carlton, Brisbane, Essendon and Adelaide pose no threat to the Magpie juggernaut, whilst I am very confident that we can beat Geelong and St Kilda.
St Kilda have undoubtedly been the form team of 2009, but I wonder if they are starting to become very complacent or if the pressure f becoming the first St Kilda premiership team for 43 years is beginning to take its toll. I know that the Saints are a very skillful team but I just wonder if they are psychologically capable of winning the premiership. The Saints have lost their last two games after winning 19 straight, so I feel that they are a little vulnerable.
Geelong have been the dominant team of the last three years but they have come back to earth this season after losing four of their last seven matches. The Cats are likely to be the team that Collingwood play in the first week of the finals and I think that we match up against them pretty well. Even though we have been thrashed the last two times we have played them, in the Grand Final of the preseason championship and early in the home and away season, when we were struck down with injuries and poor form, things seem to have turned around in recent weeks. Let’s also not forget that only two teams beat Geelong last year, Hawthorn and Collingwood, whilst in 2007 we came so close to beating them in the Preliminary Final.
I feel that of the teams currently in the final eight, only the Bulldogs stand a chance of beating the Magpies. They are a hungry team and always seem to exceed expectations. They are well coached and seem to be mentally and physically fit too. This weekend both Collingwood and the Bulldogs clash in what could be a prelude to the Grand Final. A few weeks ago when the two teams last clashed we won by a single point, which shows just how similarly matched these two sides are.