Stronger Magpies well-placed for AFL flag

Coach Nathan Buckley is planning Collingwood's bid to one better in the 2019 AFL season.
Coach Nathan Buckley is planning Collingwood's bid to one better in the 2019 AFL season.

Fuelled by the agony of grand final despair and boasting their deepest list in recent memory, Collingwood are determined to scale the AFL summit.

The question is whether the Magpies can back up from the emotional rollercoaster that was 2018 - a year of operatic highs and lows from Nathan Buckley's coaching resurgence to coming within a Dom Sheed kick of winning the flag.

Buckley's recent two-year contract extension underscores the deep faith he has earned after lifting the Magpies back to September action

But key figures agree that a repeat performance can only be driven by the players.

As assistant coach at Geelong a decade ago, Magpies forward line coach Brenton Sanderson witnessed a team stacked with leaders turn anguish into triumph.

Stunned by Hawthorn in the 2008 grand final after a season of dominance, Geelong responded by winning 13 straight games on the way to claiming the 2009 flag.

"That was just so well player-driven, with a couple of little adjustments from the coaches," Sanderson tells AAP.

"It wasn't wholesale changes. It was just getting better at what you do well and making some tweaks to some areas you think you need to improve on.

"I think that will be similar for us."

Already there are reasons to believe for the Collingwood faithful.

Favourite son and 2010 premiership player Dayne Beams is back in black and white after securing a trade from Brisbane.

So too are small forward Jamie Elliott and swingman Darcy Moore, who the Magpies hope have overcome long-term injuries.

Taylor Adams will miss at least the first two rounds after having surgery on an injured finger but Beams is a big addition to a potent midfield led by Steele Sidebottom, Adam Treloar, Scott Pendlebury and a pinch-hitting Jordan De Goey.

Throw in All-Australian ruckman Brodie Grundy, rising star Jaidyn Stephenson and the enigmatic Daniel Wells and the Magpies have no shortage of weapons, especially given several fringe players exceeded expectations last year.

"Now we have competition for spots, a few guys back from long-term injuries that missed a fair amount of the season last year," Sanderson said.

He added the club had recruited some "really talented young kids" who will push for selection as well.

"I think competition from within the club drives an improvement in performance and there's a really healthy competitive nature within this group anyway," he said.

"There's almost game anxiety with every time we train which is really healthy ... if we can maintain that hunger, we're going to be a hard team to beat again."

While Buckley's tenure is no longer a talking point, the club great remains a figure of perennial intrigue.

The 46-year-old has returned to work mentally refreshed, having taken an extended family holiday to Italy days after the Magpies were beaten by West Coast in the grand final.

"It's an incredibly difficult role, managing so many people, so many players," says Sanderson, who was Adelaide's senior coach for three seasons.

"It's really, really difficult to switch off at times when you should be really focusing on your family, your friends, your other passions in life.

"Nathan took the opportunity to just have a really decent break with his family. He's come back, he's refreshed, he's looking forward to the 2019 campaign but it was a good chance for him to get away and have a little breather like anyone else."

COLLINGWOOD

Coach: Nathan Buckley

Captain: Scott Pendlebury

Last five years: 11-12-12-13-2

Premierships: 15 (1902, 1903, 1910, 1917, 1919, 1927, 1928, 1929, 1930, 1935, 1936, 1953, 1958, 1990, 2010).

Key five: Jordan De Goey, Dayne Beams, Steele Sidebottom, Adam Treloar, Brodie Grundy.

One to watch: Darcy Moore. The versatile, strong-marking tall only managed seven games last season, falling short in his bid to return from injury during the finals. At his best, the 199cm Moore could be a game-changing addition to a Magpies backline that was mercilessly exposed by West Coast's talls in the grand final.

Ins: Dayne Beams (Brisbane), Atu Bosenavulagi (Oakleigh Chargers), Mark Keane (Category B rookie), Will Kelly (Oakleigh Chargers), Isaac Quaynor (Oakleigh Chargers), Jordan Roughead (Western Bulldogs), Anton Tohill (Category B rookie).

Outs: Jarryd Blair (delisted), Alex Fasolo (Carlton), Kayle Kirby (retired), Sam McLarty (delisted), Adam Oxley (delisted), Josh Smith (delisted).

Best line-up:

B: Brayden Maynard, Tyson Goldsack, Tom Langdon

HB: Jeremy Howe, Darcy Moore, Tom Phillips

C: Steele Sidebottom, Taylor Adams, Adam Treloar

HF: Jordan De Goey, Brody Mihocek, Will Hoskin-Elliott

F: Jamie Elliott, Mason Cox, Jaidyn Stephenson

R: Brodie Grundy, Scott Pendlebury, Dayne Beams

I: Jack Crisp, Josh Thomas, Daniel Wells, Brayden Sier

Predicted finish: 4th

Australian Associated Press