Pies in AFL premiership mode: McGuire - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Pies in AFL premiership mode: McGuire

By Roger Vaughan 04/03/2009 03:09:53 PM Comments (0)

Collingwood president Eddie McGuire has declared the Magpies are in AFL premiership mode.

Other clubs, thinking they are well-placed, have publicly aimed for the flag and then seen it all go horribly wrong - remember Hawthorn in 2004?

But after three years in the finals, including a near-miss two seasons ago, coach Mick Malthouse says it is only right to set the bar higher.

He does not put it quite as strongly as McGuire, but certainly shares the sentiment.

"If you make the finals three years in a row, regardless of who you lose ... you've got to stand up and be efficient, probably more efficient, than the year before," Malthouse said.

"Our goal as a coaching panel is to make us more efficient and therefore give us a better chance to be advanced from where we were last year.

"Some clubs have to be realistic and say `we're in the building phase', but when you've been there for three years and been competitive, then you want to be highly competitive.

"If you can be highly-competitive in today's 16-team competition, then you've got to start setting higher targets - and our target is definitely to be better than last year.

"We would love to be able to go all the way."

It is certainly a big year for Malthouse, whose contract expires at the end of the season.

That will bring him to a decade with the Magpies and while they have come close, there has been no flag in 19 years.

In many ways, last year's sixth place was even more impressive than fourth the year before, when they went within one kick of a massive upset win over Geelong in the preliminary final.

In the first year of the post-Nathan Buckley era, the Magpies had to deal with the season-ending club suspensions of key players Alan Didak and Heath Shaw, plus the attendant media storm.

Shaw's brother Rhyce, also suspended for the same off-field incident, is now at Sydney.

After three-straight losses, they won three of the next four to reach the top eight and then disposed of Adelaide in the elimination final, before St Kilda ended their season in the semi-finals.

Key position players Anthony Rocca, Simon Prestigiacomo and Sean Rusling all had serious injury problems.

Paul Medhurst became an All-Australian, Dane Swan and Scott Pendlebury shone in the midfield and Leon Davis was one of the game's most improved players.

Collingwood will be a better side if Rocca, Prestigiacomo and Rusling can all make successful comebacks, but Malthouse points out those first two players are also the team's oldest.

"Therefore, you're always in a position where you can't predict - Anthony Rocca has now had this injury on and off for two years," he said.

"Simon only played the two games last year.

"You know you have to be careful and guide them through, whereas Rusling is a young man who has had really bad luck.

"We expect big things from `Rus' and he's set himself a big task of forcing his way into the side, at either end of the ground."

Young key defenders Nathan Brown and Harry O'Brien will receive much-needed support, from Ben Reid, Leigh Brown and perhaps Rusling and Jack Anthony.

As for Didak and Shaw, Malthouse simply says they have served their punishment.

While Didak himself admits he owes the club, the coach just wants him to play well.

"They've served their time, so how many times can you serve their time?" he said.

"They're getting on with it."

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