Craig McRae during Collingwood's match against Sydney at the MCG in round one, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

COLLINGWOOD'S premiership defence isn't going to plan, but in coach Craig McRae's eyes, the Magpies' bid to go back-to-back is following a familiar script.

Collingwood was brought crashing back to earth by losses to Greater Western Sydney and Sydney first-up and will have to defy recent history to claim silverware.

No team this century has won the flag after losing their first two games of the season.

"I do recall that later in the year last year that apparently we were no chance to win the premiership because no one had won the premiership having lost three of the last five (home-and-away games)," McRae said on Tuesday.

"We just like to deal with facts, and we walk in here on Sunday and the place was buzzing.

"There's an energy to get better, and I must admit there was an energy to get better all of last year too.

"So nothing's changed in there. We'll just keep working better to get better at what we're doing, and we've got work to do.

"Stay true, Collingwood supporters - we'll turn this around at some stage, I guarantee you that."

Changes loom against St Kilda at Marvel Stadium on Thursday night, when Collingwood will attempt to avoid a 0-3 start.

Midfielder Tom Mitchell (ankle) is fit but no guarantee to be recalled against the Saints.

Big man Billy Frampton and forward Reef McInnes appear likely inclusions, with Ash Johnson and Charlie Dean likely making way.

McRae, a member of Brisbane's 2001-03 "three-peat" as a player, was asked how he knew the hunger was there.

"I can't write a book, but I could tell you the script of how it's gonna play out, and most of that's playing out right now," he said.

"Already, individuals aren't playing well, so there's an attack on individuals' performances, there's finding cracks in your armour and there's attacks on that."


McRae, who pointed to turnovers out of defence as a key issue, dismissed the suggestion the reigning premier could flick the switch.

"Nothing's easy in this world, and we like it like that," he said.

"This group is very determined to improve and we're not standing still."

McRae wouldn't be drawn on whether teams had found them out, but was adamant the tough start would hold his resilient charges in good stead.

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"I'm not sure about reality check, but it's definitely a gift," he said.

"Because we get to see where we're at against good opposition and then see parts of the game that we need to improve.

"And I'm sure at some stage this year we'll look back at this period and go 'gee, that was an important few weeks we had as a group'."