In a nutshell
After finishing 13th and subjecting themselves to a forensic examination of the entire club, the Magpies lost their opening two games and suffered numerous injuries before confounding the critics to come within one straight kick of a premiership.
What we said in the pre-season
The AFL.com.au team thought the Pies would continue their slide to 14th, although this reporter was the only one to tip them to make the finals. We predicted the rise of Mason Cox – your correspondent envisaged "Long bombs to 'Coxy'" becoming a catchphrase – and expected Jaidyn Stephenson to make an immediate impact, but missed out with our view that Collingwood would struggle if injury-prone stars Jamie Elliott and Daniel Wells don't get going.
Have your say: Give your season verdict on the Magpies using the form at the bottom of this article.
The focus on fun and culture The Magpies made a conscious effort to make the club a happier place, and it started with coach Nathan Buckley and leadership and culture manager Nick Maxwell.
The 'Swoop Squad' Dangerous mid-sized forwards Jordan De Goey, Will Hoskin-Elliott, Josh Thomas and Jaidyn Stephenson contributed 166 goals between them.
My, my, 'American Pie' Mason Cox was given an extended run as a forward/ruckman, culminating in a phenomenal performance in the preliminary final win over Richmond.
Injuries The Pies suffered the worst injury toll in the AFL and were particularly decimated by a loss of key defenders, which ultimately hurt in the Grand Final.
Eagles bogey In their last 11 games, the Magpies lost to the Eagles three times, including twice at the MCG.
Big guns misfire on biggest stage Brodie Grundy, skipper Scott Pendlebury and vice-captain Steele Sidebottom enjoyed terrific campaigns but were all below their best in the Grand Final.
A magnificent performance by Buckley and his boys given all the hardship they endured.
Almost sacked last year, Nathan Buckley underwent a stunning metamorphosis from a notoriously intense coach into an ultra-positive mentor who loosened up considerably, strengthened his relationships with players, delegated more and empowered his assistant coaches. Just missed out on becoming the first man to win Brownlow, Norm Smith and Jock McHale medals.
Nathan Buckley went from in the gun to a kick shy of a flag. Picture: AFL Photos
Five-time club champion Scott Pendlebury has had better seasons from an individual perspective, but Collingwood's 2010 premiership skipper Nick Maxwell believes this was one of the champion midfielder's best when you factor in his influence as a leader. His apparent successor, Sidebottom, took his leadership to another level, while Jeremy Howe, Taylor Adams and Lynden Dunn also led the way.
Brodie Grundy: Sidebottom was sensational, but the Magpies couldn't have progressed so far without the herculean contribution of fellow first-time All Australian Grundy, who dominated the ruck and, uniquely, was virtually another midfielder.
Jaidyn Stephenson: Apologies to the rejuvenated Chris Mayne, mature-age rookie Brody Mihocek and promising midfielder Brayden Sier, but NAB AFL Rising Star winner Stephenson was the first teenager to kick as many as 38 goals in his debut season since Bulldogs Chris Grant in 1990.
Brayden Sier: When midfield star Adam Treloar was injured in round 14, the big-bodied Sier made his debut and was so impressive he was likened to Swans captain Josh Kennedy.
Darcy Moore: A potential matchwinner at centre half-back, the young swingman endured ongoing hamstring issues and ultimately couldn't prove his fitness in the finals, despite being sidelined for eight weeks.
Preliminary final: Collingwood 15.7 (97) d Richmond 8.10 (58)
Few gave the Pies a realistic chance of upsetting the reigning premier, which had won its previous 22 games at the MCG, but the Cox-inspired underdogs shocked the footy world.
Best individual performance
Mason Cox. Preliminary final v Richmond
The American beanpole made mincemeat of the best defence in the AFL, hauling in 11 marks, including eight contested (the second-most recorded in a final) and kicked three consecutive goals in the second quarter to crowd chants of "USA! USA!"
The tragic death of veteran Travis Varcoe's sister Maggie from a fatal head injury in a women's football match was a devastating blow before the finals. The Pies comforted Varcoe, who then inspired them with some terrific football.
The big questions
How will the Pies respond after coming agonisingly close to winning the premiership?
Will Darcy Moore remain a Magpie?
How will they address their key defender issues?
Season in a song
Stand By Me by Ben E. King
Unsigned free agents: Jarryd Blair, Alex Fasolo, Tyson Goldsack
How should they approach trade and draft period?
Regardless of whether Moore stays at Collingwood, the Woods will need more key defensive steel given the long-term knee injuries to Lynden Dunn and Matt Scharenberg, and a key target is reportedly Gold Coast captain Steven May.
Early call for 2019
The Pies will cop a tougher draw next year but they have now set a standard, so another finals berth is a must.
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