Welcome to the next of Vendetta Sports Media’s AFL previews. We’re going to look at everybody’s favourite/most hated team, today: Collingwood.

The Magpies are traditionally the team with the most fervent support – and the most vitriolic detractors.

File:Collingwood VFL.PNG - Wikipedia
Collingwood’s traditional guernsey.

A tumultuous offseason in the football department was soon forgotten amid an even more tumultuous offseason in the boardroom, where a historical racism saga saw the departure of high-profile president Eddie McGuire, after 22 years at the helm.

Season 2020

8th position (9 wins, 1 draw, 7 losses, 109.5%).

Finals: defeated West Coast by 1 point in week one; lost to Geelong by 68 points in week two.

Collingwood’s 2020 campaign can be argued as a success and as a failure.

Despite a rash of injuries to key men Steele Sidebottom, Adam Treloar, Jeremy Howe, and Jordan De Goey, which in turn forced coach Nathan Buckley to blood a series of youngsters, the club was able to sneak into finals. From there, they upset the Eagles on their own turf in an instant classic of a contest.

The flipside is that the Magpies were expected to challenge for the premiership, with a team full of talented veterans on big money deals. To barely scrape into the finals, then get spanked by Geelong wasn’t what the club hierarchy had in mind at the beginning of the campaign.

Key ins: Oliver Henry, Finlay Macrae, Reef McInnes, Caleb Poulter, Beau McCreery, Liam McMahon (all draft).

Key outs: Adam Treloar (Bulldogs), Jaidyn Stephenson (Kangaroos), Tom Phillips (Hawks), Atu Bosenavulagi (Kangaroos), Dayne Beams (retired), Lynden Dunn (retired), Tom Langdon (retired), Ben Reid, retired), Travis Varcoe (retired), Tim Broomhead (released), Matt Scharenberg (released).

In case it isn’t obvious, the Magpies salary cap situation finally came back to haunt them this offseason. Between the raft of big-name retirements, the club was forced to part ways with star youngsters, talented prospects, and willing foot soldiers alike.

Despite being forced to restock their list exclusively via the draft, it looks like Collingwood have done well with their picks (of course, the usual disclaimers regarding untested rookies apply).

Despite losing key personnel, the Magpies are still well equipped to bounce back on the field. Defensively, the high-flying Howe will return to bolster a backline led by All-Australian Darcy Moore, and supported by Brayden Maynard, Jordan Roughhead, and talented young flanker Isaac Quaynor. This defense was 3rd in the AFL in 2020 and should be better this time around.

Up front, Brodie Mihocek and American Mason Cox will welcome the return of the talismanic De Goey. Pocket rocket Jamie Elliott will hope for a season uninterrupted by injures for the first time in a long time. Cox’s output will be telling. If the Texan can record somewhere in the 25-35 goal range, the Magpies attack could be as dangerous as their defense is parsimonious. If he can’t, then a middle-of-the-road forward line could hold Collingwood back. Stephenson’s loss looms large.

In midfield, the team is again lead by the legendary Scott Pendlebury. Now 33 years old, the veteran must surely slow down at some point. Chris Mayne is also coming to the end of his career, though there is a fairly large section of the Magpies support that won’t be upset to see him pensioned off.

All Australian Brodie Grundy will again shoulder the ruck work, though the emergence of Darcy Cameron finally gives Grundy a better backup than Cox. Frankly, if Cameron can kick goals as a part time forward, Cox could find his position in the first team under threat.

Prediction: 7th

An intriguing season awaits the Magpie Army.

Despite the serious talent drain caused by cap mismanagement, the Magpies are still a very strong side. The unknown is how a suddenly much younger playing list reacts to the disastrous summer endured by the boardroom and, by extension, the club as a public figure.

The Magpies should still make the finals. Once they do, they’re a team that nobody up the ladder will want to face.