Well beaten by most of the teams above them but far too good for most of the teams below. That sums up the 2023 Smithy's VFL season for Collingwood.
BY THE NUMBERS
Position: 8th (after finals)
W-L-D (%): 12-8 (118.4%)
Players used: 48
Played every match: 1 – Cooper Murley
AFL players used: 24
Debutants: 11 – Ed Allan, Harry Flynn, Zach Greeves, Jedd Longmire, Dan McStay*, Jovan Petric, Rye Penny, Joe Richards, Jakob Ryan, Oscar Steene and Jonathan Tomasiello (*previously played NEAFL)
Best and Fairest: 1st: Campbell Hustwaite, 2nd: Finlay Macrae, 3rd: Trent Bianco, 4th: Neville Jetta, 5th: Josh Carmichael
J.J. Liston Trophy votes: Trent Bianco (10), Josh Carmichael (8), Finlay Macrae (7)
Coaches MVP votes: Finlay Macrae (52), Josh Carmichael (38), Trent Bianco (31)
VFL Team of the Year representatives: Nil
Goalkickers: Reef McInnes (32), Tom Wilson (27), Nathan Kreuger (24)
(Averages – minimum 6 matches)
Disposals: Finlay Macrae (25.6), Trent Bianco (23.4), Josh Carmichael (22.4)
Kicks: Trent Bianco (15.8), Trey Ruscoe (15.3), Josh Carmichael (13.2)
Handballs: Finlay Macrae (13.1), Campbell Hustwaite (12.3), Lachlan Tardrew (11.1)
Marks: Ash Johnson (5.6), Will Kelly (5.5), Trent Bianco (5.4)
Tackles: Finlay Macrae (5.8), Campbell Hustwaite (5.4), Aiden Begg (4.9)
Hitouts: Oscar Steen (13.9), Aiden Begg (13.8), Liam Purcell (3.2)
Clearances: Campbell Hustwaite (5.0), Aiden Begg (4.7), Finlay Macrae (4.7)
Inside-50s: Finlay Macrae (5.5), Josh Carmichael (4.2), Campbell Hustwaite (3.8)
Rebound-50s: Trey Ruscoe (5.7), Campbell Lane (4.3), Jakob Ryan (4.2)
WHAT WENT RIGHT
When the Magpies were on, they were right on. Wins of 95, 92, 75, 74, 52, 51 and 50 points against non-finalists proves their eventual finishing position was about right. They also upset Casey Demons on the King’s Birthday weekend and recorded wins against arch-rivals Carlton, Essendon and then Richmond in their Wildcard Round playoff. Campbell Hustwaite continued to lead from the front while Fin Macrae, Trent Bianco and Josh Carmichael did everything they could to break into the powerhouse AFL team. They had the sixth best attack, led by Reef McInnes kicking bags of goals.
WHAT WENT WRONG
They would be bitterly disappointed with their showing in the elimination final against Williamstown. While they haven’t won on the ground in more than 120 years, kicking just three goals in a sudden death game despite fielding 15 AFL-listed players will leave a hollow feeling after a solid season as they went out at the same stage as last year. Apart from the King’s Birthday they didn’t beat a team that finished above them, losing by an average of 45 points to the top six teams. Not having a dominant ruckman hurt them, with Oscar Steene certain to be much improved from the experience against a group of quality big men as he grows into his body.
Well beaten by most of the teams above them, far too good for most of the teams below. That pretty much sums it up for the Magpies. With the rise of the AFL team to win the premiership, a lot of VFL stars struggled to get a look in at the highest level despite performing well in the VFL. Meanwhile, the VFL-listers including captain Campbell Hustwaite, Lachie Tardrew and Campbell Lane held up their end of the bargain. The numbers suggest they should have potentially gone better than they did, but the biggest problem was the gap between their best and their worst.