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Opposing Threat: Magpies

Collingwood has exceeded the expectations of fans so far this season, currently sitting third on the ladder, and with a strong end to the year, the Magpies could find themselves with a double chance and a home final if go to plan.

For the third week in a row the Magpies will play at the MCG, a ground they have played so well for such a long period of time, but a win is needed to keep destiny in their own hands.

Development of role players

At the start of the season when it was winless after two rounds, question marks started to surround the talent of Collingwood’s list and its ability to make a genuine finals push.

Fast forward 17 weeks, and it has the Rising Star favourite and at least 11 players who have improved on their 2017 form.

In what has been the most pleasing thing for Pies fans so far, first-round draft pick Jaidyn Stephenson has made an immediate impact on the competition, playing in all 17 matches this season and displaying his blistering speed and natural ability to hit the scoreboard regularly.

He’s been partnered deep inside forward 50 alongside emerging star Jordan De Goey who has become one of the most dangerous forwards in the competition, and is slowly spending more and more time in the midfield, which is sure to add another string to his bow.

A heavily maligned player last season, Chris Mayne has secured a spot in the side and has found his best form since arriving at Collingwood, while Tom Phillips, Jack Crisp, Matthew Scharenberg, Will Hoskin-Elliott and Josh Thomas are playing close to career-best football.

Mason Cox, who was a late withdrawal last weekend has also improved, providing a tall target in what is a relatively short forward line.

Star leaders

Alongside this group of rapidly improving players is a handful of elite, or borderline elite stars leading the way.

Skipper Scott Pendlebury continues to stand tall in his 13th season, averaging in excess of 27 disposals and remains as durable as he has been throughout his entire career.

Vice-captain Steele Sidebottom has catapulted himself into All-Australian contention, having averaged a career-high number of disposals this season, 29.9.

Ruckman Brodie Grundy is also fighting for a spot in the league’s best 22, now considered amongst the game’s best ruckman, and is currently ranked third in hit-outs per game.

Recruit Jeremy Howe has proven to be a strong acquisition since joining the club at the end of 2015, becoming one of the competition’s best rebound defenders, and always catches the eyes of fans with his high-flying marks.

These four stars are leading the way for the Pies, which in turn is improving those younger, emerging players.

Injured Pies

The Magpies have been met with some adversity in recent weeks, having to deal with injuries to some very important players.

Star midfielder Adam Treloar was sidelined in Round 14 after damaging both hamstrings in what appeared to be quite an inocuos incident mid-way through the fourth term.

More recently, Lynden Dunn’s season has been cut short after rupturing his ACL in Round 15 against the Suns, and Cox was a late withdrawal from Collingwood’s most recent clash with West Coast on Sunday.

The Treloar injury has seen the likes of De Goey spend more time in the middle, as well as the debut of third-year player Brayden Sier.

The gaping hole left in defence by Dunn has been filled by Darcy Moore who returned last weekend from injury, and looked comfortable on the last line despite playing much of his football as a forward.

Despite the severity of these injuries, the club has done well to fill the gaps left by its wounded stars, and it will be interesting to see how long these players can maintain their lofty standards.

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs