Collingwood intent on swooping historic AFL flag double

Oliver Caffrey |

Collingwood captain Darcy Moore believes things are looking up for the Magpies in the 2024 season.
Collingwood captain Darcy Moore believes things are looking up for the Magpies in the 2024 season.

Two hours after winning a classic AFL grand final, Collingwood players gathered together in the middle of the MCG.

The circle wasn’t your usual premiership celebration.

Wild and joyful repeat renditions of the Magpies’ theme song were replaced by serious reflections.

This was a group far from content, already eyeing their next challenge.

Collingwood, who joined Essendon and Carlton with 16 VFL/AFL premierships after their thrilling four-point victory over the Brisbane Lions last September, have not won back-to-back flags since 1935-36.

They came close in 2011, securing the minor premiership, but Geelong stood in their way on grand final day.

The legendary Lou Richards declared the end of the Colliwobbles after the Magpies’ drought-breaking flag in 1990, even holding a mock funeral at Victoria Park.

But the Magpies suffered a mighty premiership hangover in 1991, leading to a decade of misery.

Under modern-day master coach Craig McRae, Collingwood seem assured of avoiding a drop-off this time.

Collingwood coach Craig McRae (left) and captain Darcy Moore
Collingwood coach Craig McRae (left) and captain Darcy Moore are eyeing more AFL premierships. (James Ross/AAP PHOTOS)

Darcy Moore, who led the Magpies to a premiership in his first season as captain, has hailed McRae’s mantra of “evolution”.

“It’s clearly a core belief with him around coaching, which I think is really healthy for a team when you think your best footy is always ahead of you,” the star defender said at the AFL captains’ day.

“It’s a unique challenge having won last year, and then that really puts to the test that mentality and how well are we going to handle it (being reigning premiers). 

“We’ve got to keep chasing our best footy. 

“It does look different, every season there are trends, and teams cotton on to certain trends and it changes. 

“We’ve got an office full of people who study the tapes and work out what is going to help us win games, and it’s going to look different (in opening round) this year to what it will in round 10 to round 20. 

“Where we ended last season is not necessarily where we’re going to start from this season.”

Collingwood will embark on their premiership defence with the oldest list in the competition.

But as the Magpies displayed last year, and Geelong showed in 2022 when they fielded the oldest grand final team in VFL/AFL history, age is merely a number.

Dynamic but controversial forward Jack Ginnivan departed Collingwood for Hawthorn just weeks after becoming a premiership player as a 20-year-old.

But his spot inside 50 has been filled by Lachie Schultz, who left Fremantle after five seasons with the Dockers.

Jack Ginnivan
Jack Ginnivan celebrates Collingwood’s 2023 flag, but he has since left the club to join Hawthorn. (James Ross/AAP PHOTOS)

Ginnivan’s decision to attend a horse-racing meet at Moonee Valley the night before the grand final drew the ire of McRae, even during the glow of a premiership.

Moore insisted Collingwood and Ginnivan were “bonded for life”, but he was also puzzled by Ginnivan’s pre-match routine.

“I couldn’t really believe it, to be honest,” Moore said.

“Certainly not what I would have done. 

“It was an extraordinary decision, but Jack’s shown that he’s an extraordinary guy, so good luck to him.”

Opposition clubs have already tried to emulate Collingwood’s uncanny ability to win close games, including all three of their finals last year by seven points or less.

“‘All those lessons are why we’re here now and we practise it, two years of practising scenarios,” McRae said after last year’s preliminary final win against GWS.

“Two minutes to go, kill the game, two minutes to go, we need to win, it’s rehearsed for these moments.”

Collingwood will certainly be hard to beat when the scores are tight, but will they add another weapon to their arsenal that will have rivals again playing catch-up?