AFL – Contenders or Pretenders? Pies in the mix

An incredible AFL season has seen Collingwood deliver nine-straight wins. However many of those victories have been by under a kick, and pundits are split on their 2022 chances.

After finishing 17th in 2021, a year in which they said goodbye to a long-serving coach and club legend, Collingwood’s 4-5 start after nine rounds was far from poor. New coach Craig McRae had shifted the way the Pies played (compared with under Nathan Buckley), and a general consensus emerged that thew new brand was more attacking. It was also more entertaining. At this stage, more optimistic fans were perhaps hoping the Pies could scrape into the AFL Top 8. But at $4.50 with Palmerbet, this was still an outside hope.

Since then however, what the team has done is nothing short of incredible. And it even has fans and pundits asking — ‘they couldn’t, could they’?

Ice in their veins

Since starting 4-5 the Pies have won nine straight games. Let that sink in. And, at 13-5, are not only almost locks to play finals ($1.01), could yet mount a charge for the Top 4. The most incredible aspect of Collingwood’s unexpected run is just how many close games they’ve prevailed in. Seven of their last eight games have been decided by 11 points or less, and McRae’s men have snatched four points in all of them. It’s also a mark of their strange-yet-brilliant season that despite sitting at a more-than-healthy 13-5, their percentage is just 106.2. That’s less than one per cent more than 11th-placed Port Adelaide (8-10), for comparison. The dizzying run has seen them shorten from $26 into $3.00 AFL Top 4 hopes.

Contenders or Pretenders?

Whenever a club launches themselves into the Top 4 in the manner Collingwood has, the question of their premiership credentials simply has to be raised. There’s two schools of thought on the Pies’ hopes in 2022. The more circumspect school of thought goes that while the club’s run is amazing, their inability to put lowly teams away (Essendon, Adelaide and North Melbourne in the last three weeks, for instance) points to a side that’s still 12 months off. The other more glass-half-full thought is that, should a Top 4 finish eventuate, they could very much be holding the AFL Premiership cup aloft in 2022. St Kilda legend Nick Riewoldt is one of those subscribers. “The more and more I see the Pies, the more I think they are in contention to win it this year,” he said on Fox Footy in recent weeks.“There’s not a weakness within their game…get to a prelim, which it looks like they are a really good chance of doing, and anything can happen.”

Whatever the case, Collingwood’s movement in the premiership market is nothing short of incredible. A $101 hope after Round 9, the Pies are now into $14 with Palmerbet.

To come

The reason Collingwood, who currently sit inside the AFL Top 4, remain $3.00 outsiders to remain there is due to a tough run home. This week they face a Port Adelaide side who were impressive despite defeats to Geelong and Melbourne in recent weeks. The Pies start marginal $1.65 favourites in that one. Then, the real test starts. Three straight games against Top 4 hopefuls await them; Melbourne, Sydney (away) then Carlton. We’ll know far more about this exciting side in four weeks time ahead of Finals Week 1.