COLLINGWOOD captain Nick Maxwell has warned teammates that embattled Carlton will receive a welcome shot of adrenalin playing the Magpies this week and said yesterday the startling difference in the form of both sides reinforces how quickly fortunes can change.
As pressure mounts on the Blues after losing six of their past seven matches, Brett Ratten’s men at least know they have the game plan that can topple the Magpies – if their 60-point win in round three is any guide.
The Blues were considered premiership favourites after that win but the demise began the following Saturday when master tagger Andrew Carrazzo hurt his shoulder and the Blues were beaten by Essendon.
They have won only three matches since – against Fremantle, Greater Western Sydney and Melbourne – and have been 14th on Champion Data’s ”form ladder” since that April defeat.
Despite the Blues’ troubles, Maxwell said their earlier win over the Magpies would provide a mental boost.
”Their confidence will be up against us, obviously from round three,” he said. ”But we are a different team now. No matter who we come up against at the moment, we just want to keep winning.
”They are just someone else who is in our way and we just want to get the four points and play the type of footy we want to play.”
That type of footy has resulted in 10-straight wins, with the Magpies maintaining momentum despite fielding seven debutants.
That loss to Carlton sparked a major spat between president Eddie McGuire and former coach Mick Malthouse, the latter having called Collingwood’s defence ”leaky” and claiming there had been a distinct change in game plan under Nathan Buckley.
That defeat did bring about a tinkering of the Magpies’ game plan, although Buckley has denied his senior players went to him and demanded it revert to the defensive principles of recent seasons under Malthouse.
Maxwell said that ensuing week had been more about debate on the Pies’ game plan by those outside the club.
”It was more external. It wasn’t to do with us,” he said.
”More than anything, we got guys back and fit and firing. When guys are fit and can run around and cover the ground, you are more chance of obviously getting the points.
”As we have said a few times, the injuries we have had – you never hear us talk about injuries.
”We just go about it, the next one comes in and the 22 that go out are the 22 that have to get the job done
”The 22 didn’t get the job done on that night, obviously round one was our other loss for the year. We just have to make sure we play the way we want to play. If we do that, we will be hard to beat.”
That certainly has been the case.
Since round three, the Magpies have been ranked No. 1 for clearance differential, averaging eight more than opponents.
They have also been equal first with Adelaide in terms of contested-possession differential.
In the corresponding period, the Blues are ranked 13th in clearance differential, averaging a negative three, and are ranked 10th in contested-possession differentials, breaking even with opponents.
The Magpies’ pressure has been superb and reminiscent of the latter stages of their drive towards the 2010 flag.
They had 27 tackles inside their attacking arc against the Dockers on Saturday – the second-highest on record by the club – with youngster Jamie Elliott having 10.
Overall, the Magpies had 100 tackles, only the second time on record they had reached three figures.
Clearly, it’s been some turnaround since the Magpies’ shaky start to the year.
”It just shows how quickly things can turn around in this game,” Maxwell said. ”For us, we had to work from such a long way back but you keep grinding it out and controlling what you can control. As a group, we will get to where we want to be.”
One player trying to grind his way through a difficult period has been Travis Cloke. The power forward has a team-high 31 goals from 13 matches and was subbed off on Saturday after recording only seven disposals.
Cloke, in the spotlight over his contractual negotiations, is still contesting hard but the rewards haven’t been great. Maxwell said he was pleased with Cloke’s work.
”He is in our leadership group. We expect him to keep structuring up the forward line,” he said. ”That is probably something most people underestimate and don’t see a lot of – he is our one forward that is in the leadership group, so he has taken on a big load there and making sure everything is structured the way we want it.”
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