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Magpies have no-fear factor: Malthouse

By Sam Lienert 18/09/2009 08:20:01 PM Comments (0)

They are Collingwood's no-fear generation and even coach Mick Malthouse is surprised by their depth of belief they can win this year's AFL premiership.

The Magpies side named to play Geelong in Saturday night's preliminary final at the MCG includes eight players with fewer than 50 AFL games to their name.

Contrast that with two for the Cats - Harry Taylor and Tom Hawkins - both of whom have played 41 matches, while Hawkins is the only Geelong player not to have played in a grand final.

But while that is true of most of the Magpies, Malthouse said they had developed rapidly this season and what they lacked in big-occasion experience, they made up for in confidence.

He said the young batch had no hesitation in joining their teammates at the start of the season in setting their sights on a flag.

"Our boys said they want to win the premiership," he said on Friday.

"Is that too high an aim? Maybe, but I'd rather them aim for a premiership than aim for ninth or eighth or seventh.

"Our leadership group, coupled with those young kids, they're not scared of saying what they want to do.

"I found it very hard to say premiership, but they had no thoughts of anything else ... there's a non-fear factor that I think is commendable to a senior group that perhaps was underestimated.

"But they don't underestimate their own value, that's one of the great things about coaching this football side - they believe.

"Probably like last week (against Adelaide), they still believed they could win the game when it looked dead."

It is part of the reason Malthouse's belief level has climbed since their 27-point loss to the Cats in their most recent meeting, in round three.

After that match, he memorably declared that if Geelong were at their best, his team was not good enough to beat them.

On paper, the Geelong side now looks even better, with skipper Tom Harley and No.1 ruckman Brad Ottens missing on that occasion.

But the Magpies side is very different.

Cameron Wood, Steele Sidebottom, Sharrod Wellingham, Brent Macaffer, Alan Toovey and Tyson Goldsack - all in the under-50 game bracket - have all since pushed their way in.

Malthouse says among that group are players who "didn't understand league football" but have since made great strides.

"What we've been able to do since round three is get a lot of games into young players and a couple of finals games," he said.

"I'm tipping that our playing group have improved dramatically from that game in round three because of the experience gained in that 18 to 20 weeks.

"How much they've improved, that will be the test tomorrow."

He said half-forward Brad Dick, who played in round three but barely had an impact, was a vastly different player now.

With just six games experience at the start of the year and returning from a serious knee injury, he took time to find touch, but showed his value against the Crows last weekend.

"He has matured terrifically," Malthouse said.

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