Craig McRae after Collingwood's win over Melbourne in the 2023 qualifying final. Picture: Getty Images

COLLINGWOOD will on Friday notch its 11th preliminary final appearance in 22 seasons, seeing the Magpies reaching at least the penultimate weekend of the season on average every two years over more than two decades.

It is a remarkable run of contending that, although only resulting in one premiership so far in 2010, shows the Magpies to be a regular flag threat for most of this century.

Before making the 2002 Grand Final under Mick Malthouse, the Magpies had gone 12 years since playing in a preliminary final – the most recent before that being their 1990 drought-breaking premiership win. But since that first Grand Final loss to Brisbane and then again in 2003, the Pies have continued to be a common flag chance.

Their other Grand Final appearances since then have been in 2010 when they first drew with and then beat St Kilda; 2011 when they lost to Geelong; and again in defeat in 2018 to West Coast.

But the Pies have also been preliminary finalists in seven other seasons – this year, 2022, 2019, 2012, 2009 and 2007. The longest stretch between top-four finishes for Collingwood was between 2012-18 as coach Nathan Buckley rebuilt the Pies after taking on the coaching position.


Buckley's successor, Craig McRae, had his first season as Pies coach end in preliminary final heartbreak last season with a one-point defeat to Sydney, but Collingwood is back in the same position this year as host to Greater Western Sydney on Friday night.

Collingwood's consistency in challenging for the premiership since their breakthrough 2002 Grand Final appearance is bettered only by Geelong in terms of making at least the preliminary final. The Cats have had 13 seasons in the same period since the start of 2002 where they have made either the preliminary final or Grand Final and won four premierships in that time – in 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2022.

Sydney (eight), Port Adelaide (seven) and Hawthorn and Brisbane (six) are next most for top-four finishes, while St Kilda, West Coast, Adelaide and the Western Bulldogs have all had five each. Greater Western Sydney's win over the Power last week saw the Giants reach a preliminary final for the fourth time in their history, with Richmond having also gotten to four – all of which came in their golden run between 2017-2020.

Carlton's finals progression after their pulsating win over Melbourne on Friday night sees the Blues make their first preliminary final since 2000, while Essendon and Gold Coast have not made a preliminary final in that window since the start of 2002, with the Suns yet to make the finals after entering the competition in 2011.

Preliminary final appearances from 2002-23

13 - Geelong
11 - Collingwood
8 - Sydney
7 - Port Adelaide
6 - Hawthorn, Brisbane
5 - Adelaide, St Kilda, West Coast, Western Bulldogs
4 - Greater Western Sydney, Richmond
3 - North Melbourne, Fremantle
2 - Melbourne
1 - Carlton
0 - Essendon, Gold Coast