A huge dip in form combined with the AFL’s longest injury list – are Nathan Buckley’s Collingwood side contenders or pretenders for the 2019 premiership?

Up until six weeks ago, Collingwood’s season was going swimmingly. With nine wins in 10 games, they had shortened into $3.75 premiership hopes with Palmerbet (second-favourites behind Geelong). Sure, there were some grumblings from hard-as-ever coach Nathan Buckley about manner in which they were accruing four points. But if that’s the worst thing happening at an AFL club, it’s a fair indication things are going well.

But in short time, things began to turn. First, star young forward Jaidyn Stephenson was suspended by the AFL for his role in a betting scandal. His absence has been well noted ever since. Then Buckley’s earlier worries came to the fore, as the Pies started to lose. A loss to North Melbourne, then Hawthorn (in which they started as strong favourites in both) was stemmed only by a one-point win in the west. But then, in the last two weeks, big losses to GWS and Richmond have followed. Collingwood are now $13 outsiders to claim the 2019 AFL premiership. So, are they still contenders, or making-up-the-numbers pretenders?

Mounting injuries

Rarely at this stage of the AFL season can injuries be an excuse for losses. Every team has them, after all. But Collingwood’s could be a special case. The Pies have as many as 22 on their injury list and have suffered an abnormal amount of soft-tissue injuries. Last year they also suffered a considerable dent to their list (albeit not as big) but went on, as we know, to make the AFL grand final, losing by a kick. This season they’ve struggled to adapt. The side that were at one stage $1.10 to make the top four are now $4.50 with Palmerbet.

Run home

Despite the negativity, Collingwood still has so much to play for in AFL season 2019. And despite the doom and gloom predictions for the Pies, they have time to gather momentum before September. Crucially, the wins they accrued earlier in the year mean they are all but assured of a top eight spot barring some sort of calamity.

Currently, Buckley’s side sit in sixth – just a few percentage points off rivals Essendon in seventh. But importantly, they are two games clear of Adelaide in eighth. They also have a relatively straightforward (as ‘straightforward’ as the even-natured competition can be) run home. The Pies face the Gold Coast this weekend in familiar surrounds at the MCG. They start that one as $1.12 favourites with Palmerbet. Then, the last three weeks of their home-and-away AFL season read: Melbourne, Adelaide, Essendon. That round 23, clash, announced on Tuesday as the Friday night fixture, is likely to be vital.

One more thing…

Despite the overall team disappointment in the last six weeks, the Pies still have two players in the top 10 of Palmerbet’s Brownlow Medal market. Brodie Grundy ($17) and Adam Treloar ($34) are both in the mix (albeit outsiders when compared with the logjammed top five) to take home the AFL’s most prestigious individual honour. It would be the first Collingwood winner since Dane Swan in 2011.