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Pies confident of bouncing back

By Guy Hand 30/08/2010 04:54:29 PM Comments (0)

Collingwood star Heath Shaw admits having one eye on the finals a fortnight out may have contributed to the Magpies' wobbly end to the AFL home-and-away season.

The Magpies go into their qualifying final against the Western Bulldogs at the MCG on Saturday night after a patchy two weeks of form, but still the No.1 ranked side and warm favourites to earn a direct passage to the preliminary final.

Shaw believes an end to the fixture season far removed from the dominant performances of the previous month was a blip - perhaps because Collingwood knew they were unlikely to lose their grip at the top of the table.

"We couldn't move anywhere ladder-wise, and you sort of do have one eye on the finals," Shaw said.

"You go out there to win every game and we didn't do that on the weekend.

"We're (still) very confident. It's been a long year and the last two weeks we've been a bit down on our performances.

"But we still take a lot of confidence out of those games, knowing we didn't play as well and we got one win and really close to a win."

The bad news for the undermanned Bulldogs, according to Shaw, is that the Pies have total belief that what has worked most of the season will work again on Saturday night.

"We know that our game plan works, our structures hold up, and we can beat anyone and that's a good thing to have coming into a finals series," Shaw said.

"They are going to miss a few quality players, and we definitely prefer those guys not to be playing than playing.

"But they're going to put 22 guys out there that are keen to get a win.

After falling at the preliminary final stage last season, Collingwood go into the 2010 finals with a wealth of added finals experience in recruits Luke Ball and Darren Jolly.

Both have been among the Magpies' best in their run to the finals - Ball hoping he can erase the heartbreak of last season's grand final defeat with former club St Kilda.

"It (finals experience) is important, but I think this group has been up around the mark for the last three or four years so there's plenty of finals experience while they haven't made the final week in September," Ball said.

"But the top four sides have been around the mark the last couple of years, so I wouldn't say any one side has a huge advantage in that area.

"In a quiet moment of reflection by myself, maybe I can think about (defeat in last year's grand final) and draw on it a bit as a bitter memory."

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