Premiership Odds: $19
Moving on to the top eight and Collingwood along with Geelong were the two best recruiters in the off-season and it should see the Magpies return to September action.
The Pies have just one player older than 28 (Dane Swan) and a majority of first-choice players in the 22-27 age bracket. Their best 22 looks capable of finals action if all play to their peak, however, they will still need things to go right throughout the season.
Let’s not forget at June last year, Collingwood were sitting in the four, having lost just the three games. They are definitely capable of mixing it with the best, but that drop off following they bye is something Buckley should be concerned about.
Key Player: Scott Pendlebury
No one is as important as this man is in Collingwood’s 22, and as one of the most consistent players in the AFL today, this won’t change in 2016 as he re-loads for another huge year.
Pendlebury captured his fourth club best and fairest award, placing him in elite company along with club legends Bob Rose, Len Thompson and current-coach Nathan Buckley.
Over his last five seasons, Pendles has averaged between 28 and 29 possessions per game – truly incredible numbers. His silky smooth skills and innate ability to weave in and out of packs is something football fans can only watch in awe.
It seems like the midfielder can just pause the game and assess all his options. He looks like he has so much time to pick his spot and much of that comes from his basketball background.
The Magpie champion is set for another sensational season in 2016 and it will be a pleasure to watch him at his best.
Rising Star: Darcy Moore
The 19-year old had a breakout game against the Dogs in round 17 last season, kicking five goals in just his third AFL game. Moore only kicked nine goals in nine games in 2015, but that performance against the Bulldogs showed he has the capacity to succeed Travis Cloke as the club’s spearhead.
Originally drafted as a forward, Moore showed his versatility by playing in the backline at the beginning of the VFL season, and his aggressiveness in the contests showed he has the skill and ability to play in multiple areas of the field.
Moore oozes excitement and his true passion for the game, along with his impressive skill set, means he will be making Pies fans smile for years to come.
Under the Pump: Jesse White
He can be one of the most frustrating players in the league to watch, and that’s just down to the fact that he has not taken his chance by the scruff on the neck.
White is a formidable figure who is blessed with pace, but he has yet to secure a key post in the Collingwood forward line and looks like Moore is already ahead of him in the pecking order.
Traded from Sydney at the end of 2013, the big forward kicked a respectable 27 goals at the club in 2015, but it simply isn’t good enough for someone who should be one of the game’s most feared forwards.
Strength: Defence (not conceding)
Collingwood’s defence ranked eighth in points conceded in 2015, and ranked in the top six in least inside 50s and rebounds 50s conceded.
This performance was largely om the back of Frost and Brown, who held the backline down as two of the more unknown but effective key position defenders.
The way they performed in 2015 will allow Ben Reid to go forward, but both will want to continue their good form from last season if they want to keep Matt Scharenberg out of the team, who will return from injury late in the year.
Williams and Langdon were among the best rebounding defenders in the league in 2015, both developing significantly and providing a complement for Goldsack and Alan Toovey, who provide tight, tough game styles.
The reason I have their defence as their strength and not their midfield, is that all these players have more potential to unlock, excluding Brown and Goldsack, who have pretty much reached their peak.
Its a backline that is well organised and strong in rebounding that should see the club replicate their defensive form from last year into 2016.
Howe comes across from Melbourne as someone the Pies hope can be effective, but there is little evidence to suggest he is anything other than a high-flying marker.
Moore played with energy and excitement in 2015 and looks set to be the focal point of this forward line for years, but he’ll need to develop consistency throughout the year and its too much to pin all your goalkicking hopes on a 19-year old.
Ben Reid is very injury prone and will be hoping for a clean run and is best when used as a forward, but is he a goalkicking machine? I’m not so sure.
Cloke is sill their elite forward, but he needs to prove he can adjust to today’s game – he needs to be more than just a lead-up forward. Anything like what he has delivered in the most part of the last two years, then Collingwood will struggle to find goals, its as simple as that.
Jamie Elliot is a small-forward option, but fell away badly in 2015, kicking just 11 goals in the last ten games of the season. He still finished however, with a respectable 35 goals.
The problem is Collingwood lack the player who they can definitely say ‘yep, he’ll get us the goals we need this season’, and it will become a huge problem if they don’t have two to three players, kicking over 50 goals each this season.
What the fixture looks like: Good
They open with tough clashes against Richmond and Sydney and have their first back-to-back road games in 21 years in rounds 16 and 17.
They double-up however against Carlton and Melbourne, and their last six games are in Melbourne, so there should be little to fear in this draw for the Pies.
HF: Jeremy Howe, Ben Reid, Dane Swan