MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 20: Chloe Molloy of the Magpies (R) celebrates a goal with Brianna Davey of the Magpies during the round eight AFLW match between the Collingwood Magpies and the St Kilda Saints at Victoria Park on March 20, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Martin Keep/AFL Photos/via Getty Images )

After a pretty subpar first few seasons, including a bottom of the ladder finish in 2019 with only one win, Collingwood really hit their stride in 2021, backing up their first finals appearance in 2020 with a stellar season that saw them fly to the top of the pack.

The Magpies were a genuine premiership favourite early on, and are set to be in the mix yet again in season 2021.

2021 recap

The aforementioned stellar season saw Steve Symonds' side reach the top of the ladder, dominating the competition.

The Pies won six straight games before running into eventual premiers Brisbane, losing by just three points.

Missing out on a top-two finish with a final-round loss to Adelaide saw Collingwood finish third with A 7-2 record and an average win margin of 27 points.

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The black and white finally won their first final, coming against North Melbourne, before a heart-breaking four-point loss to the Lions in the preliminary final.

This can be credited to their strong defence, with Stacey Livingstone holding the fort and Ruby Schleicher breaking out at half-back, while Brianna Davey was unstoppable in the midfield on her way to the AFLW best and fairest award.

Up forward, Chloe Molloy is a genuine match-winner and kicked 16 goals to add another strong campaign.

Off-season moves

This off-season the Magpies really zoned in on filling up their forward stocks, which was probably the best move for their list management team given the quality of their centre and backline.

It opens a few questions on what the forward line will look like, with the recruitment of Sabrina Frederick and VFLW leading goal-kicker Imogen Barnett joining the attack. Other draftees Eloise Chaston and Eliza James are also forward options.

The retirement of star ruck Sharni Norder will also see former Blue Alison Downie slot into contention among the attacking third.

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Recruits: Alison Downie (delisted free agent, Carlton), Sabrina Frederick (Richmond) 

Draftees: Imogen Barnett, Eloise Chaston, Eliza James 

Inactive: Jordan Membrey (ACL)

Out: Maddie Shevlin (Richmond), Abbey Green, Sharni Norder (retired), Kristy Stratton (delisted)

Strengths and weaknesses

The Magpies' strength also happened to be their weakness when up against powerhouse sides in the Crows and Lions.

It was a simple game plan that worked to perfection. The side enjoyed their best AFLW season as a result of their controlling the play style. A style that sees them own the footy and prevent teams from doing anything with it, as seen in their high winning margins.

They recorded the most disposals, handballs and marks, and ranked second for short kicks. The players were skilled enough to implement the high-disposal games.

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This was until they ran into the brick walls that are Brisbane and Adelaide. The only two sides to beat Collingwood were the eventual grand finalists.

Both sides are physical and provide high-pressure, shutting down space, something the other teams didn't do. This forced the Holden Centre women to over-posses and turn the ball over.

Season summary

Carlton (A), St Kilda (H), Geelong (A), Fremantle (H), Brisbane (A), West Coast (H), North Melbourne (A), Western Bulldogs (H), Adelaide (A), Gold Coast (H)

Defining Period

Rounds 4-9 see Collingwood play four of last year's finalists in a six week period, including the Crows and Lions - playing those two away from home if it wasn't hard enough already.

Winning most of these games, especially a win over either Brisbane or Adelaide would go a long way in proving the Pies are a flag threat.

Predictions

The Pies have a chance to be a premiership contender in 2022.

Their line-up is even and the midfield is hard to stop, making them a side to be wary of once again.

The only hole in the list at first glance was the ruck, with Norder gone, but they were able to recruit a few players to cover that.

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Expect the Pies to be around the pointy end of the season and make finals yet again.

Ed Carmine: 5th
Mitch Keating: 7th
Danielle Sorati: 5th
Niesha Happell: 2nd
Jake Benoiton: 4th
Cameron Grimes: 4th
Michael Georgiou: 4th