Collingwood’s midfield continues to rise and fly under the radar

MELBOURNE, Australia — They may be the most supported and celebrated football club in the country yet for some strange reason nobody seems to be talking about Collingwood.

Since dropping the first two games of the season, the Magpies have enjoyed a mini-resurgence by winning six of their last eight matches, including a 35 point victory over the Western Bulldogs at Etihad Stadium on Friday night, to jump inside the top eight on the AFL ladder.

Collingwood’s only blemishes during that stretch came against reigning premiers Richmond and Geelong where inaccuracy in front of goal cost them dearly.

A lack of chatter around the Magpies is something unusual but season 2018 has had plenty of dazzling storylines distracting us from the progress quietly being made by Nathan Buckley’s side. The continued dominance of Richmond, the emergence of West Coast and the demise of Essendon and Carlton have all allowed Collingwood to fly under the radar.

But Friday night was a timely reminder for everyone of what this side is capable of doing. After a horrific first quarter the Pies sprung to life, particularly in the second half, when they booted eight goals to just four behinds.

“It was a pretty impressive last three quarters,” Buckley said following the win. “The last half in particular was a really strong example of the brand we want to play more often. Hopefully we’re improving and doing it better week by week.

“I think we are starting to demonstrate that we’re a potential top eight side.”

Collingwood’s midfield brigade once again excelled leaving many pondering where exactly their talented midfield group ranks in the AFL right now.

Brodie Grundy is certainly making sure Max Gawn earns his place in the All Australian team. The ruckman has elevated his game enormously this year and again starred with 26 disposals, 38 hitouts, seven clearances and seven marks in what was an arguably best-on-ground performance.

There was Adam Treloar who racked up 40 disposals at 70 percent efficiency, Scott Pendlebury who did magical things that only Pendlebury can do and Steele Sidebottom proved threatening every time he went near the ball.

Taylor Adams and Jack Crisp combined well as an inside-outside combination while Tom Phillips continued his emergence with 36 disposals and six marks.

What’s setting the Collingwood midfield apart from other right now is that they are kicking goals. Nine of Collingwood’s 13 goals against the Bulldogs came from midfielders or defenders.

“It was a completely different side playing after quarter time,” Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge lamented. “They lifted their intensity and challenged us on a number of fronts and we came up well short.”

Asking which team possesses the best midfield is guaranteed to spark serious debate among football fans but even the most anti-Magpies supporter would find it difficult to argue that Buckley’s chargers are not in the conversation.

While there’s no such thing as a guaranteed win these days, Collingwood does have a kind draw heading into the bye rounds and could firm up their place inside the top eight with games against Fremantle (MCG), Melbourne (MCG), Carlton (MCG) and Gold Coast (Metricon Stadium) in the next month.

Maybe it’s time to stand up and take note.

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