It may have been easy to forget there was a game of football on Sunday afternoon, as the media’s focus leading up to the Carlton and Collingwood clash was centered on the rivalry between head coach Mick Malthouse and his first encounter with former club Collingwood.
On-field at the MCG, the Magpies led by Malthouse’s protégé Nathan Buckley, proved that they are in fact the real deal as they put aside petty rivalries and pulled away from the brave Blues in the last quarter to record an important 17-point victory.
The opening to Collingwood’s season this year is a marked contrast to Nathan Buckley’s first year as senior coach at the Magpies. The 2012 Magpies opened their season with two losses in the first three matches, including a crushing ten-goal defeat to Carlton in round three, placing extreme pressure on new coach Buckley, before producing a ten match winning streak.
However, the quality of football produced by the Pies in 2012 was not of the same dominant nature, as compared to the clubs fantastic efforts over the course of the previous two seasons. These years, 2010 and 2011 were of course the seasons that Collingwood, under the guidance of Mick Malthouse, played off in consecutive Grand Finals and took home the 2010 premiership.
So far in 2013, the Pies have opened their season with an important win while missing several key personnel over the always hard to beat North Melbourne and now they have prevailed in defeating their arch rival in Carlton. These results have given Collingwood the best possible beginning to the season with two victories in as many weeks and fifth place on the AFL ladder.
As a contrast, the Blues now led by Malthouse, are sitting 0-2, in thirteenth spot and face an uphill battle just to get back to parity with the rest of the league and even make the finals.
The Pies seem to have found the right mix of young players with the performances of Jamie Elliott in booting five goals with 20 disposals in a best on ground performance and another standout game from mature-aged recruit Sam Dwyer with 23 disposals and a goal, influential in the Pies eventual victory.
The efforts of unheralded players that have boosted their profile and subsequent performances since Buckley has taken the reigns and set his own mark on the club are highly impressive. The game plan and methodology he and his coaching staff have employed veers away from the old style that Malthouse used in his time in charge.
For Magpie fans, not only do they now have bragging rights over their old enemy for the time being, but they are now proving that the 2012 season may have just been a minor blip on the radar, the Magpies a genuine threat to claim their 16th premiership.
At present Collingwood have become the strongest challenger yet to dethrone the Sydney Swans and claim the ultimate prize on the last Saturday in September. While Carlton may well have been crowing over acquiring the Magpies last premiership coach, Collingwood might not have to wait very long before they have the last laugh and claim a premiership under Buckley.
The best part for Collingwood will be that Buckley was on their doorstep, waiting in the wings the whole time.