After just two wins in their last six games, Collingwood have gone from AFL premiership favourites to a chance of missing the finals altogether.

In the weeks following the AFL’s season re-start in June, Collingwood were flying. In fact, after a Round 3 humbling of St Kilda, Nathan Buckley’s side came into $5.50 premiership favourites with Palmerbet.

But since then, the wheels have fallen off – both on and off the field. So how did they get here? And how have they gone from flag fancies to sixth-favourites at $11?

On and off-field unease

First it was Héritier Lumumba’s claims of racism at the club, backed up by former players. Then it was vice-captain Steele Sidebottom, caught drunk and breaching COVID rules. Then it was star forward Jordan De Goey, charged with indecent assault. And to put the icing on the cake, it was Buckley himself in the last week caught breaching AFL COVID rules, just days after president Eddie McGuire said those flouting the hub protocols should be ‘sent home’. It’s not been a good six weeks for the Pies.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, poor results have followed. A narrow loss to the Giants was followed by a lacklustre defeat to Essendon. Scrappy wins again Hawthorn and Geelong followed, but back-to-back losses to both WA sides has again brought the microscope onto one of the AFL’s biggest clubs. The Pies were at one stage $1.08 to make their third-straight finals series, but that’s now out to a less-certain $1.45.

Scoreboard struggles

The average score per game in AFL season 2020 is 62 – a number Collingwood has failed to reach in their last FIVE games. Their issues in the forward 50 are well documented: De Goey’s absence for most of the season has (and will continue to) hurt them. Mason Cox’s continued confidence issues has plagued Buckley’s side. Their fleet-footed forwards have only shown fleeting signs of form in 2020, too. Jaidyn Stephenson is yet to show the form of last season, while the likes of Josh Thomas and Jamie Elliot simply aren’t hitting the scoreboard enough. And it’s meant they are relying too heavily on utility Brody Mihocek (current $26 Coleman Medal outsider).

The upside

The good news is, their draw is opening up. With Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne to come, it’s conceivable that the Pies could turn around the slump with three straight AFL wins in the next fortnight. Hawthorn legend Luke Hodge backed them to get back to winning ways. “I don’t think it’ll be panic stations just yet for Collingwood,” he told SEN radio. “Two weeks ago they were looking handy and they’ve lost to West Coast and Freo which is a slip up, but we’ve seen a lot of teams have slip-ups this year…you look at the next three games, they’ve got Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne. We’ll be judging them over the next three weeks to see if they’re in a bit of trouble.

“The last two weeks haven’t been ideal, but it’s not panic stations just yet knowing what that group can do and knowing how calm (Buckley) is and what he’s done with that group in the last few years…Collingwood need to win at least two (or ideally) all three of the next three games.”

The Pies go into Thursday night’s clash against the Swans as $1.36 favourites.

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