Collingwood's recent rise from 17th in 2021 to a preliminary final last year and now early premiership favourites in 2023 has much to do with the arrival of Nick Daicos.

The 20-year-old is currently averaging a league-best 36 disposals, is leading the AFL Coaches votes, and right now, is the favourite to take home the Brownlow in just his second year.

The Magpies are currently third with a 4-1 start to the season, and Daicos has played a big role in the Magpies' fortunes, his stats say so, but he has been scrutinised by opposition fans.

Pies coach Craig McRae joined SEN and addressed the criticism faced by the son of Pies legend Peter Daicos, saying he likes to focus on the positives rather than the negatives.

"I don't love it as a society, really," McRae said on SEN's The Run Home.

"Why would we look for the wrong or the things that he can't do? I love looking at things he can do and rewarding the behaviour, not just Nick, but everyone.

"He's an exceptional talent and his decision-making is like no one else in our team. He sees things that others don't see.

"I'm sure if 17 other clubs had Nick Daicos on their list, they'd be looking for ways to get him involved in the game.

"Playing in positions where you want to give him the ball (so he can) make great decisions. He's not going be perfect, we don't even want him to be that, that word.

"What he's doing right now is fulfilling talent and making us better."

After five rounds, Daicos leads to the competition in disposals, effective disposals, kicks and metres gained.

NICK DAICOS
Midfielder
Collingwood
2023 SEASON AVG
31
Disposals
74.7
Disposal %
3.2
Marks

The effective disposal is the biggest tool in his arsenal, as he is one of the best ball users, so when he gets his hands on the leather, be it 'earned' or 'cheap', the result is almost always to the benefit of those in black and white.

The 2022 Rising Star Award winner is taking his game to the next level, and his coach recognises this, in fact, he could see it over the summer.

McRae says the 30-gamer is operating on a different level from others.

"You absolutely marvel," he said.

"You could see in the pre-season and what was coming … but what he's doing every week is just something different — 42 possessions on the weekend and his ability to impact games.

"He's an incredible player, let's face it.

Nick Daicos during the 2022 AFL Round 1 match between St Kilda and Collingwood (Photo by Cameron Grimes / Zero Digital Media)

"The thing that separates Nick from others is the way he prepares — he prepares as good as anyone that you've seen. If you're a young lad out there and you want to know how to make it, get to training and watch Nick train.

"He comes back on day one of pre-season and wins the time trial. It's not a bad statement to make, that's work he's done.

"The way he prepares, the way he's in there with the coaches yesterday looking at all the things he can do better and the things he's done that he wants to acknowledge.

"Preparation is such a key."

McRae received much praise for his coaching, not only during last home and away season (winning coach of the year), but the finals series, not allowing his players to slump to the ground after a loss.

His philosophies stood out and this year, he has a new philosophy which he opened up about on SEN.

"I went overseas and saw there's lots of people using the elevators, and not many using the stairs," he said.

“I got consumed by it, everywhere I went I took photos of the lack of stairs being used and the following the others mentality.

"I couldn't help but think we all want to take the easy option in life and get on the elevator … I came back and presented this to the players about our analogy to get up the ladder.

"The only way in our game to do that is through taking the steps and then I showed them the pictures of the steps v the elevator.

"For us, we're going to take the steps, everything we do now — you'll see us at the airport and at work taking the steps — that's become our catch cry for the year, taking the steps to rise up the ladder to qualify to make the finals.

"I'm giving away way too much, but over the season there'll be more that comes out of this. We did a couple of really cool experiences that, maybe at the right time, I'll share.

"But we do have a ladder to represent taking the steps."

The next step for Collingwood is ANZAC Day where they will meet Essendon in what is the biggest clash between the two this century.

Tuesday's mouthwatering fixture marks the first ANZAC clash where both teams have sat in top four since 2000.