While not many fans attended the round 15 Sunday night encounter at the MCG between Collingwood and Carlton, the Magpies importantly secured their ninth win of the season with a hard fought 15-point win over the Blues.
At present, the Magpies sit in sixth spot on the ladder, trailing the fifth placed Geelong (106.8%) by a game, but the Pies (114.1%) have the superior percentage over the Cats. Fremantle is also one game in advance of the Magpies, however the Dockers also hold a significant percentage advantage of nearly 18% over the Magpies.
Despite the vital four points collected against the Blues, it is the next three weeks that are likely to define Collingwood’s season, given they play three teams that are all in serious contention for a finals berth.
Facing the Gold Coast Suns at Metricon on Saturday afternoon, the Magpies will have a hard enough task in winning, as the Suns are becoming increasingly difficult to defeat at home. Collingwood then face the two teams intent on stealing the Suns’ place inside the top eight, in Essendon and Adelaide.
Importantly for the Magpies, both these matches are at the MCG where they have a 7-2 record this season, losing only to Geelong by 11 points in round three, and Hawthorn by 29 points in round 14.
Should Collingwood win these three important matches, they will take a 12-5 record into its round 19 clash against Port Adelaide, also at the MCG. While the Power have on the whole enjoyed a fruitful season, two of their three defeats have been on the road and of course they have yet to grace the MCG this season.
On the whole, Collingwood only play two games for the rest of the home-and-away season against sides placed higher on the ladder, and of its eight remaining games, the Magpies are fortunate to play five of them at the MCG.
Admittedly, this season has shown that if teams are even five percent off their game, they can be vulnerable against all opposition. The Magpies discovered this themselves, falling victim to the Bulldogs in round 13. However, should the Magpies play up to their true potential in the coming weeks, claiming six wins in their remaining games is certainly an achievable goal.
If they can hit this target, a top four spot beckons, as the Pies potentially could finish the season with a 15-7 record: historically, this puts them right in the mix to claim the double chance.
It may well come down to the final home-and-away match of the season, in which Collingwood take on recent nemesis Hawthorn as a must-win game to make the top four.
Of course such events are weeks in the future, and all hands at the Westpac Centre will be focused on this week’s game against the Suns. However, long term planning is important for football clubs and while a finals berth seems almost assured for the Magpies, just how far they can go into September after an early exit last year is entirely in their own hands.
Coach Nathan Buckley – after last year’s Elimination Final loss – would undoubtedly be pushing the Magpies to drive as hard as possible to claim the double chance: if not, the prospect of another wasted season is on the cards for the Magpies.