So much has gone wrong for Nathan Buckley and Collingwood this season but enough has gone right for them to go into their blockbuster AFL preliminary final against Richmond with immense belief.
The Pies set up a tantalising final against the reigning premiers with a hard-fought 10-point win over GWS at the MCG on Saturday night.
It’s a scenario that appeared unlikely as the club contended with a seemingly never-ending run of injuries that started before Christmas.
Long-term injuries to Jamie Elliott, Ben Reid, Tyson Goldsack, Lynden Dunn, Matt Scharenberg, Darcy Moore and Daniel Wells, to name a few, threatened to scupper Buckley’s well-laid plans to return to the finals after a four-year absence.
But the coach and his players, displaying renewed confidence in their collective ability and stronger care for each other, refused to let that happen.
“You do plan for it … whether you get there or not is a different thing,” Buckley said of the Pies’ deep finals run on 3AW radio.
“What you do know is that there’s a lot that we didn’t plan for.
“There’s a lot that happens that you can’t anticipate or that you might not think you’ve got the answers for, which is why you need to live in the moment, trust your people and make the right calls as you go along.
“Hopefully you get more than half right and I think that’s what we’ve been able to do.”
Jordan De Goey (ankle) and Brayden Sier (corked thigh) carry slight injury concerns into a six-day preparation for Friday night’s clash at the MCG..
The Tigers allayed fears Dustin Martin had suffered a mishap at training on Friday, with small forward Dan Butler (ankle) the only significant injury issue at Punt Road.
Melbourne kept their late-season roll going with a spirited 33-point semi-final win over Hawthorn on Friday night.
The Demons take on West Coast at Optus Stadium on Saturday afternoon for a place in their first grand final since 2000.
Simon Goodwin’s men escaped the win unscathed and the coach has the luxury of several options at the selection table.
Bernie Vince did his best to add himself into the mix when he pressed his claims for a return from shoulder surgery in the VFL.
The veteran, who will retire at the end of the season, remains hopeful of earning a recall after he gathered 22 possessions and kicked a goal in Casey’s win over Essendon.
“All I can do is make sure I’m available,” Vince said.
“I had to get through a game first and now I’m in a position where I can be selected.
“I realise the odds are against me.”
The Eagles will need to make at least one change to cover the loss of defender Brad Sheppard (hamstring).