Ignoring the last game of the season, Collingwood had a wonderful season which saw them defeat all but one team. Unfortunately for the Pies, that team was the Geelong juggernaut which saw them fall agonisingly short of a back-to-back premiership.
They won twenty of twenty two games, one of which was less than a kick, and another was a dead rubber. Both however were against the Cats, who many would argue had the mental edge going into the Grand Final. With injury clouds over Ben Reid and Darren Jolly going into the clash, and a hard fought, energy-sapping win against the Hawks the week before, they were to run out of puff, with the Cats too good over four quarters.
In 2012, Pies fans would be expecting a top four finish and ideally a premiership. But if anyone knows how hard it is to win flags, it’s the tormented Pies’ supporters who lived through the 70’s. With Nathan Brown back in the side, and a young giant in Jarrod Witts coming through the ranks, the Pies are starting to reform their depth which lacked after the retirements of many key players in 2010.
They have only lost Leigh Brown and Leon Davis from their best 22, and many will be hoping Cameron Wood can take the next step in his development. Meanwhile Steele Sidebottom, Dayne Beams and Alex Fasolo are expected to get more midfield time. Overall this season will be about redemption as they seek to avenge their 2011 Grand Final loss.
Dane Swan – After controversially missing out on the 2010 Brownlow Medal, the tattooed ball magnet picked up his first Charlie in 2011. Despite his unconventional running style, Swan has become a key target for opposition taggers given his ability to go forward and snag goals. A keen goal sense and quick off the mark, Swan once again proved why is one of the best players in the league.
Travis Cloke – The much maligned Travis Cloke took his game to another level in 2011, finally finding his kicking boots and haunting oppositions. He collected the most contested marks in a season on record and booted three goals in the Grand Final to really stand up on the biggest stage. In 2012, Pies fans will be hoping he continues this form and is able to deliver 70+ goals as the leader of the forward line.
Scott Pendlebury – Pendlebury is one of the very few Magpies who put in a four quarter performance in the Grand Final. Stepping up in big games, Pendlebury finally won his first best and fairest, knocking off Dane Swan for the first time in four years. Collingwood’s vice captain will have a pretty huge offer on the table from GWS and he will no doubt have a lot to think about in season 2012.
Steele Sidebottom – It’s hard to believe that Sidebottom is only 21 given he was only one half away from being a dual premiership player. Sidebottom has great goal sense and is good through traffic, however his inconsistency can frustrate supporters. Unlike most players, Sidebottom stands up in big games, but tends to drop off against lesser opponents, so in order for him to improve, he will be hoping to get longer stints in the midfield and with it, gain consistency.
Dayne Beams – Beams didn’t have the best 2011. After starting the season in poor form and even being dropped at one stage, he managed to overcome an injury to have a super back half of the season. Injured in the Preliminary Final to Hawthorn, he controversially ruled himself out of the Grand Final, however many believe he would have been dropped had he not withdrawn.
Alex Fasolo – ‘Fas’ quickly became a cult hero at the Pies with his cheeky smile and ability to kick the freakish goal. Wearing Peter Daicos’ number, he slotted several ripping goals, including five against Essendon in the second half of the season. Now donning the #1 guernsey, Fasolo will be looking to improve further and really consolidate his spot in the best 22.
Collingwood have only lost Leigh Brown, Leon Davis and John McCarthy from their top 30 players, while gaining a host of young players which include Jarrod Witts and the returned Marty Clarke. In 2012, it is expected they will once again go top four, and like a number of clubs, will be right up there when the whips are cracking.