Recap of last season
The 2022 AFL season finished almost perfectly for the Pies losing by just one point against Sydney in the second preliminary final. Maybe it was playing Sydney or the loss a couple of weeks earlier to Geelong that was on their minds but the Pies couldn't quite get the job done.
Few teams have jumped from 17th on the table into the top four in the past and so much of that success can be attributed to new coach Craig McCrae who took over from Robert Harvey who finished 2021 as coach after the sacking of Buckley.
After 14 weeks of the season, the Pies were sitting in ninth and not looking like finishing in the top eight let alone four. Thankfully for them, Brisbane dropped down as did Fremantle allowing the Pies to go on to win eight of their next nine and finish fourth. A great season for a club that's clearly building something special.
How can they improve
A percentage of just 104 while finishing fourth is almost unheard of. The Pies were on the lucky side of several tight wins in 2022, while these might go their way again Collingwood would want to expand their winning margins this year.
With a strong squad and a senior coach now in his second year at the club under a new game plan, the Pies look very strong this year. The expectations are well known and they dealt with them well in 2022. But 2023 is different, with more pressure, COVID-19 is essentially a thing of the past, and now a new captain.
After a decade at the top of the list Scott Pendelbury has decided to move on from the leadership role, while he will stay in the side Darcy Moore is now the main man. A change of leadership could easily go either way this year.
IN: Ed Allan (No.19 draft pick), Billy Frampton (trade, Adelaide), Bobby Hill (trade, Greater Western Sydney), Oleg Markov (pre-season supplemental selection period), Dan McStay (free agent, Brisbane), Tom Mitchell (trade, Hawthorn), Joe Richards (No.48 draft pick), Jakob Ryan (No.28 draft pick), Oscar Steene (pre-season supplemental selection period)
OUT: Callum Brown (delisted), Tyler Brown (delisted), Isaac Chugg (delisted), Brodie Grundy (trade, Melbourne), Ollie Henry (trade, Geelong), Jack Madgen (delisted), Liam McMahon (delisted), Caleb Poulter (delisted), Jordan Roughead (retired)
Looking at the Collingwood lineup it's hard to move past the defensive lineup as the key strength. While the middle looks strong, especially with Tom Mitchell partnering with Jordan De Goey it's the men in the back who will make the biggest difference.
There is no other word to describe Jeremy Howe than freakish and Brayden Maynard proved he was up to the task in 2022. Nick Daicos and Darcy Moore both provide plenty of run off the half-back line and will be superstars over the next decade. The three most experienced defenders in Howe, Moore and Maynard averaged more than 15 marks between them last season alone.
Having moved Brody Grundy on after a disappointing but still solid 2022 the ruck position is one that looks a little light on. Darcy Cameron, at 27 years old is an experiment man considering the number of games he's played but as second fiddle and even the first stringer on occasion last year he did well.
2022 saw him play 24 games, up from 19 in 2021 and his numbers increased across the board. 8.5 kicks per match up from 4.5, very much a modern ruckman in his ability to kick and importantly go forward almost averaging one goal a game. With no Grundy though it's hard to see him spending any time up forward.
Having recently been reported as ready to go in round one, WA product Ed Allan looks like an up-and-coming gun for the Pies in 2023. He was taken at pick 19 despite some initial interest from clubs that had picks within the top 10.
At 194cm and being super fast, Allan really does look like a modern footballer for a modern team with a modern game plan. He could play literally in any position but being super quick, and being a backup midfielder is probably the way to go. Recently Allan also signed on for another two years meaning he will be at the Pies until at least 2026.
Collingwood looks a very strong side once again from full-back right up to full-forward. However, their midfield is certainly aging and that isn't helped by bringing in a veteran like Tom Mitchell and keeping Scott Pendulbury along for the ride.
The Pies only got to the top four with some luck last year and it's hard to see all of the one-point matches going their way once again. Teams will also have been studying the new McRae gameplan over the summer pushing the Pies a little further back.
Going from 17th to within one point of a grand final means it's hard to know where exactly the team is. However with a solid side, and a quality top end, they will do well but is there enough depth in the team? That's yet to be seen.
Ladder Position: 7th
Before you move on, why not give our Facebook page a like here. Or give our Twitter account a follow to keep up with our work here.