Collingwood Magpies winning close games, breaking records, history, training match simulation, analysis, latest

Call it luck, skill, clutch — whatever you want — the Collingwood Football Club currently sits fourth on the AFL ladder amid a nine-game winning streak.

The Magpies recorded their most epic win yet of 2022 in last Sunday’s miracle after-the-siren victory over the Bombers, with Jamie Elliott’s goal etched in black and white history.

It cemented the club’s reputation as masters of the fourth quarter, with six of Collingwood’s wins over its undefeated run coming by 10 points or less.

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According to AFL Media, no other team in league history has won eight games in a row by a smaller cumulative margin (66 points) than Craig McRae’s side.

Furthermore, the Pies’ current percentage of 106.2 would mark the lowest of a top-four side in 24 years should it qualify for the double chance with the same figure, and Champion Data revealed it’s the second-lowest percentage of any team to have won 13 games at this stage of the season.

Put simply, this team has won an unprecedented amount of close games.

It continues an extreme leap from largely the same team that finished 17th last season with just six wins including a five-game losing streak in a campaign where long-time coach Nathan Buckley departed.

A dramatic shift from Buckley’s defensive-oriented game plan to McRae’s more offensive style has clearly been key — as reflected by several key stats highlighted by News Corp.

They include the Pies in 2022 ranking top five in the competition in mark play on percentage, kick forward percentage, corridor use from defensive 50, forward half intercepts and points from turnovers.

This more daring approach goes hand-in-hand with the club also training specific match simulation of being in the very tight situations they’ve constantly found themselves in — and really any situation a game could throw up — as noted by Roos legend David King on Fox Footy’s first crack earlier this month while watching on at a Pies session.

This shows to even the biggest skeptics that their wins aren’t just luck given it’s something being actively coached by McRae and his coaching panel.So with Collingwood’s capacity to win so many close games so critical to its good fortunes, what specifically have these game simulation drills entailed?

The Daicos brothers have been key (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)Source: FOX SPORTS

King told foxfooty.com.am.au the club is essentially preparing for every situation — from being up by three points with a minute left, to being down a couple of goals in the dying stages, while under AFL-like pressure in all areas on the ground.

“They have an A team against a B team and they just play mock match practice all the time,” King told foxfooty.com.au.

“You can certainly see the urgency and locations of where they’re going, what they’re doing.

“They are educating the players what’s required at what time — when to kick the ball. Why are you kicking there? Why are you playing on? Soak up time if you need to. You haven’t got time for a behind, you’ve got to push, you’ve got to rush.

“They’re challenging the players to always be thinking what the game needs — not what the coach needs. They’re actually learning this stuff, I think it’s excellent.”

Despite struggling to put teams away convincingly, Collingwood’s stunning nine-game winning streak and rise into the top four has seen it enter conversations as a flag contender.

Working in the Pies’ favor this September is that outside of Geelong, there aren’t that many standout teams and question marks over basically every other finalist.

It means the flag race is wide open and there’s a realistic path to the grand final for an underdog like McRae’s Magpies.

McRae and Scott Pendlebury embrace after the win over Essendon (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)Source: FOX SPORTS

However King wasn’t yet ready to declare the black and white a bona fide premiership threat despite his impressive defensive profile including being ranked second in the league over the last six weeks in restricting scores in his defensive 50.

“I think they’ve still got a lot of improvement to go to win the flag. I’m all about profiles — their defensive stuff or without the footy stuff is unreal the last six weeks — top-two in the competition,” the dual premiership Kangaroo said.

“Their ability to hold up down back is unreal, they really have a gridlock down there, you just can’t score against them.

“But I don’t know if they’re going to be good enough at clearance or with consistently winning contests around the ground given they’re young. There’s still some vulnerabilities with their inexperience.”

McRae noted this week how his team ranked top four in center clearances earlier this season with Brodie Grundy spearheading the ruck division, an area they’ve since dropped to 18th in while he’s been sidelined with a knee injury.

So perhaps the star ruckman’s impending return to the side along with Jordan De Goey will give the Pies the spark they need in the center of the ground — and prove Grundy’s worth in the face of intense trade speculation.

Indeed, we’ll learn plenty about the pies on the run home when they come up against Port Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Carlton. They have to drop one sooner or later … don’t they?

Collingwood does also deserve praise for its capacity to hold its own against the best sides — going 3-3 against current top-eight teams and only narrowly falling to Geelong (by 13 points) and Brisbane (seven points).

Heck, if not for a horror fourth quarterback against the Cats in Round 3 where it conceded seven goals, Collingwood would be outright first on the ladder. Let that sink in for a moment.

McRae evasive on Grundy & De Goey trades | 01:54

As impressive as that may be, the Magpies have also only beaten one top eight side since June and could very easily have dropped games against the lowly-ranked Kangaroos and Crows in recent weeks.

It’s been a very slippery slope – and one they’ve been on the right side of more often than not, although perhaps there really is some method to the madness.

Four-time premiership Hawk Jordan Lewis wasn’t yet convinced by the Pies either as a genuine flag contender, but believes they’re a massive danger team in September.

Lewis likened them to the 2008 Hawthorn premiership side that upset Geelong in the grand final in that it “took the competition a little bit (of time) to catch up” to the way it played.

The black and white faithful will be hoping their team’s season ends in the same fate.

“They’ve won nine on the trot, they’ve beaten … not being disrespectful … but a lot of bottom eight sides. Melbourne was probably the last win they’ve had against a genuine top eight contender,” Lewis said of Collingwood on Fox Footy’s AFL 360.

“The hardest thing to learn is how to win. This team is a little bit brash, a little bit fearless, they’ve learned how to close out games, what they need to do at the right times.

“They’ll be a scary side to come up against because they hang in games, they know how to win close games … and there’s an unpredictability about them.

“A lot of sides haven’t had a lot of time to do homework. This is their time where they might get away with a little bit more than what other sides study them over the pre-season.”

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