NATHAN Buckley is confident he's coaching a better Collingwood team than the 2014 version that threw away a hot start to the season.
The Magpies are in the box seat to return to finals after beating Greater Western Sydney by 42 points at the MCG on Sunday.
Buckley's men are fourth on the ladder, a game clear of the fifth-placed Giants.
Collingwood also started the 2014 season with an impressive 8-3 win-loss record, but faded after the bye and failed to make the finals.
"I don't know if we're playing better footy (compared to then)," Buckley said.
"But I think we're a more mature group.
"We're a better team and we're a better club than we were 12 months ago."
Buckley insisted nobody at the club was going to get too excited about Sunday's result, the Pies' final game before their mid-season bye.
With Fremantle, Hawthorn, Port Adelaide and West Coast to come in the month after the bye, the Magpies cannot afford to let up.
"The environment around the place is really solid, we're not getting carried away one way of the other," he said.
"If we have a loss, it's not the end of the world. If we have a win, we're not the champions that everyone might tell us we are.
"We're maintaining our composure well as an organisation and that's going to stand us in good stead."
Buckley said he felt his side was able to stabilise the momentum of the game through its supremacy on the inside of the contest against the Giants.
Collingwood had a considerable advantage in the contested possession count (156-125), a sharp turnaround from a disappointing effort in that area against Melbourne on Queen's Birthday.
"For the most part we played the type of footy to have the game in some form of control, which is easier said than done against a side so damaging," Buckley said.
"Bar that 10-minute period through the middle part of the second quarter, we felt like we'd stabilised the momentum of the match and we were in control of how the match was being played."
Buckley singled out the performance of Jarrod Witts, who rucked basically one-out because of the neck injury sustained by Brodie Grundy in a training mishap on Friday, against Mumford.
The Magpies coach also heaped praise on Nathan Brown's shutdown role on dangerous Giants forward Jeremy Cameron.
Brown kept the competition's equal-second leading goalkicker to two goals, four marks and just six disposals.
Buckley said the Brown-Cameron and Jack Frost-Cameron McCarthy matchups were only consolidated on Saturday morning.
"Harty (backline coach Ben Hart) and I had a conversation about 10 minutes before walking into the team meeting yesterday morning and we said 'What do you reckon? Yep, we'll go this way,'" Buckley said.
"We could've gone six of one and half a dozen the other… but it was as near a run thing to a 50/50 as we've had."
Grundy is unlikely to be fit for the trip to Perth to face Fremantle on June 25, while Jarryd Blair – who missed Sunday's game because of an ankle concern – should be fit to reclaim his place in the side.
"Blairy will be right. He was touch and go, so it was wise not to force it especially with the bye on the other side," Buckley said.
"Brodes has had a scare. He's going to be in a neck brace for the next couple of weeks. I'd say he'd be unlikely for Freo but he might be a chance, but we don't know exactly how it's going to go – it's still a fair way away."