With hatred clouding their judgements and incapacitating their ability to see things logically, of course the AFL world don’t think Collingwood will play finals in 2017.
Certain clubs such as St Kilda, Melbourne and even Essendon are seemingly looking to surpass the Pies and leap-frog them as front-runners to surge into the top eight, but there are many reasons to suggest otherwise.
These thoughts, however, were revealed before the 2017 fixture was released, and at second glance, David King and Glenn Luff confirmed Buckley’s comments from 2016 on SEN, suggesting that if the Pies don’t make finals in 2017 then he won’t expect his contract to be renewed.
“Nathan Buckley is probably the one person in football that enters 2017 under the most pressure,” King said on SEN’s The Run Home.
“I think if you’re going to start the year like that then there’s going to be darts thrown at him left, right and centre. I don’t think this year is going to be any different to 2016.”
Despite this, King does believe that 2018 will be Collingwood’s year.
“There’s a lot of talent there but it’s maybe just one year shy on the experience chart and on the age profile,” he said.
Luff agreed, and says that the main concern for the Pies is their backline.
“Their midfield is really strong. I think forward of centre they don’t get the credit. I think when fit, their forward line is OK. It’s behind centre which is the concern,” he said.
“It’s all about the system. Can they get that system right to protect that back six? They’ve brought in Lynden Dunn…he’ll do a job. I know people will say that they got rid of (Jack) Frost and Nathan Brown but I don’t mind Lynden Dunn. “
As touched on before, another dimension to look at when dissecting why the Pies will struggle next year is the fixture.
Collingwood finished 12th on the ladder in 2016 meaning they are on the bottom of the middle-six grouping.
This resulted in them getting a tougher draw than Richmond who finished one spot below them in 13th, and a similar draw in terms of difficulty to finalists North Melbourne and West Coast.
In 2017, Collingwood will only face one bottom-six team – Essendon, a side that is a big unknown for next season and could prove to be not a good thing at all.
But if there is anyone in footy who will relish the tough conditions for next year, it’s Nathan Buckley, a man who admitted it is a do-or-die season on a personal account.
There are huge positives for Collingwood next season, some which far outweigh the negatives.
The Pies have added in plenty of experience for next season, something which they craved in 2016. On top of Lynden Dunn, Daniel Wells and Chris Mayne joined the Pies on semi-long term deals which will prove to do them wonders for depth.
The Mayne inclusion caused some controversy and speculation that Buckley is desperate to save his job, but he would have been silly not to pounce on Mayne. One, they get him for nothing, and two, his fierce forward-line pressure is second to none in the AFL.
Mayne, who has not been able to regain his best footy in the past couple of seasons, is someone who should thrive in the opportunity of being in a new environment, and with Collingwood a better team at moving the ball than Freo, he is more than capable of having a 30-40 goal season.
Even Daniel Wells, who turns 32 in February, is a skillful midfielder who can turn a game upside down. There is no doubt that if fit, oppositions teams will be looking at the Collingwood line-up in the build up to a game and discussing how to nullify Wells’ influence.
It’s not a bad pick up at all.
There are also many players who come into calculations for a Round one start next season who had limited exposure in 2016.
From the line-up that came agonisingly close to causing Hawthorn to finish sixth on the ladder as opposed to third in Round 23 last season, there are a dozen players who did not feature that would be near walk-up starters for 2017.
At the top of that list would be Jamie Elliot, who failed to play a single game due to an on-going back injury.
This should see the Collingwood forward line really blossom and cause opposition teams major headaches next year, with the added talent of Alex Fasolo, Jamie Elliot, Chris Mayne and ex-Giant Will Hoskin-Elliot.
The forward line is set despite the absence of Spearhead Travis Cloke. It will give Darcy Moore plenty of space and game-time to improve as a genuine full-forward.
The talent is there, and with a star-studded midfield already consisting of Scott Pendlebury, Steele Sidebottom, Adam Treloar and Taylor Adams discounting recruits, the Pies should be no less confident in the way they can dictate a game from the midfield than a finals side from 2016.
Do they have the players to kick the goals? Tick.
Do they have the players to get the ball down there? Tick.
The one area which will, put simply, define Collingwood’s season is the backline.
While people sit there and judge how lacklustre the Collingwood defence is shaping up for 2017, they forget that the Western Bulldogs won a premiership with an undermanned line-up. They proved this year that a champion team will always beat a team of champions and this could not be more true for years to come.
Gone are the days where you need pure key defensive stocks and a stack of players who can play one-on-one with the game’s tallest forward.
Year by year the game is changing, and while people continue to judge, the AFL will continue to evolve in some way.
So with the pressure that Buckley was always expecting, 2017 may well and truly be coming at the wrong time for Collingwood given its difficult fixture for 2017. But in spite of this, underestimate the Pies at your own peril.
Teams take time to gel, yes, and Collingwood has slid down the ladder consecutively since 2012, but in 2016 Buckley finally got the team he wanted, the talent he needed.
To sack Buckley at the end of 2017, as weird as it sounds, would be extremely pre-mature. You would be getting rid of a coach who the players want to play for and respect. Patience is something that Collingwood fans truly need.
Persistence is key, and if the Pies win 10 or more games next season then it should be a pass mark, not finals.
Though subtle, this would still be an improvement, and ridding the coach for not making finals (after winning more games than in 2016) would be on the back of public pressure.
To sack Buckley in 2017 is to miss out on a grand final appearance in 2018/19.
One word, patience.
With another pre-season under their belts and the young guns gaining an extra year, the Magpies may be the team to surprise the football world next season.
Possible Round one line-up:
FB: L.Dunn L.Keefe B.Maynard
HB: J.Howe B.Reid T.Varcoe
C: J.Crisp S.Pendlebury D.Wells
HF: J.Elliot J.White S.Sidebottom
FF: A.Fasolo D.Moore C.Mayne
R: B.Grundy A.Treloar T.Adams
INT: J.Smith L.Greenwood J.Aish W.Hoskin-Elliot
EMG: J.Blair T.Goldsack T.Langdon
Not included: M.Cox, M.Scharenberg, J.De Goey, B.Sinclair, J.Ramsay, A.Oxley, T.Broomhead