Nathan Buckley expressing his anger during Collingwood's final against West Coast
COLLINGWOOD coach Nathan Buckley has admitted his team was vulnerable in 2012 and pointed to four losses during the season where the Magpies were exposed.
"We were poor against Carlton in round 15 [a 23-point loss] and Hawthorn in round 17 [47 points], then two games against North [30 points] and West Coast [49 points] showed us that if we weren’t at our best we were vulnerable," Buckley told collingwoodfc.com.au
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"They were big wake-up calls."
In a frank interview with the club's website, Buckley said Collingwood had the talent to be a contender again in 2013 but improvement was needed across the board.
"We have an understanding that we have a high level of talent compared to some sides, but I think that's overstated in some ways - a lot of sides have talent.
"So it then comes down to what wins games of footy. Yes, talent does, but you've got to be prepared to work harder for longer than your opponent.
"[And] we all need to sharpen up.
"Coaches, players, administrators, all the leaders of the footy club. That relates to the games themselves, but a lot of that happens in preparation. Prepare with a real intensity and focus to find your best and push your limits all the time."
Buckley had to deal with not only a large injury toll in 2012 but also concerns about player culture. Ultimately that led to comments made by football manager Geoff Walsh who conceded the Pies needed to address the issue.
"What I do know is our discipline, our attitude, if that's linked to culture it is something we would feel needs to improve if we are going to be around in the last week of September," Walsh said.
"Our players will understand what we are all about, or if they don't need to be around for the ride, we are happy to accommodate them elsewhere.
"Are we going to be a flash in the pan, or do we dig in and give some sort of credence to the talent on the list by virtue of performance? We are hell-bent on returning this team to a premiership."
And later, respected football journalist Caroline Wilson suggested in a column that the club sack Brownlow medallist Dane Swan (who had received a club suspension for two matches during the year for drinking and breaking team rules).
Buckley will be hoping Leading Teams can help. The group - widely credited with inspiring the Sydney Swans' famous 'Bloods culture' that powered them to the 2005 premiership - was hired in November.
Not that Collingwood is far away from the top echelon. The Pies won 16 home and away games and a final.
However, three losses to runner-up Hawthorn in 2012 revealed the Magpes were not quite up to the standard they were in the two previous seasons that drove them to back-to-back Grand Finals.
Can the Pies get back to that last day in September? Well, that's Buckley's challenge ... and we'll find out soon enough.