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McRae out to build on ‘winners solely’ theme

Even though Craig McRae’s cardiac kids lost their Midas touch when they needed it most, he knows Collingwood are onto something.

But first, the Magpies coach is determined that they keep Jordan de Goey

McRae was equal parts shattered and proud after they fell to Sydney by one point – 14.11 (95) to 14.10 (94) – in Saturday’s riveting preliminary final at the SCG.

Collingwood stormed into the top four with a unlikely string of tight wins – they were 9-1 in games decided by seven points or less – but at the business end of the season, they lost the qualifying final to Geelong by six points.

And now they’ve ended their season by the barest of margins.

Nevertheless, the “winners only” message that the first-year senior coach wrote on the changeroom whiteboard stands true for a team that stormed from second-bottom last year.

It was an extension of the immediate aftermath of their narrow loss to the Cats, when a handful of Collingwood players slumped to the ground in despair.

That irked McRae, who told them post-match not to do so again.

And immediately after Saturday’s loss, the Collingwood players stayed standing and thanked their fans, who applauded them in return.

“The way they thanked them as they’re walking off the ground – I haven’t seen that to too many teams, playing an interstate final, and losing and then you go and thank your supporters and the supporters thank them just as much,” McRae said.

“That’s a pretty special thing.

“I did write up on the whiteboard we’re ‘winners only’ – winners only, for us, is a catch cry we’ve used right from day one.

“Sometimes when you lose, you can still act like winners. It’s about what we want to be”.

While nothing is guaranteed for next season, McRae is confident they will build on this year’s heroics.

“We start 18th again, but there’s a lot of stuff that’s been built and starting to become foundations of what we want to be,” he said.

“There’s a pattern of behaviour that’s been consistent, that suggests why we’re in this position.

“I already know our game plan doesn’t have to be … reinvented. Most of it’s all there and the growth in the group has been outstanding.”

But first things first. Immediately after the game, McRae buttonholed de Goey’s manager.

De Goey is a restricted free agent and no certainty to stay at the club, despite them keeping their faith in him after his off-field dramas over the last few months.

I grabbed his manager and said ‘let’s get to work on this’, because I’ve said this openly, I want Jordy at our footy club next year.

“Now I don’t know how that’s progressing, but hopefully it’s progressing in the right direction – not because he’s Jordy de Goey, but I just think this environment is the best place for Jordy de Goey.”

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