IN A strange way, Collingwood has taken more positives from its defeats over the last month.
An improved 3-2 record from the club's final five games guaranteed that a place in the finals, albeit a knockout elimination final away to West Coast, was secured.
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However, while victories over North Melbourne, Carlton and Gold Coast were pleasing, it might have been the losses sandwiched in between that ensured more gains could still be made this season.
An eight-point defeat to Brisbane and a narrow 16-point loss to Port Adelaide – both of which finished level at the summit of the AFL ladder – gave Nathan Buckley's side a feeling they could match it with the best.
According to in-form defender Jack Crisp, it's a feeling that is now fuelling the team's motivation ahead of Saturday night's do-or-die elimination final against the Eagles at Optus Stadium.
"Throughout the whole season, you could say we've been up and down," Crisp told AFL.com.au.
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"But I feel like in the last four or five games, we started to come together really well as a team. I think we won three and lost two, but the two we lost were to Port Adelaide and Brisbane and they weren't by much.
"We feel like we're matching it with the best teams and we feel like we're starting to get some good footy going, but we still feel like we'll need to put together a good four-quarter performance for it to matter on Saturday."
The term "up and down" is a good way to describe Collingwood's form throughout a 2020 season that ultimately yielded a 9-7-1 record and an eighth-place finish after the home-and-away campaign.
The Pies never lost more than two matches in succession. However, they never won more than two straight matches either. Such inconsistencies now leave them with a tricky test against the Eagles at the home venue of their opposition.
So, while positives could be salvaged from losses to Brisbane and Port Adelaide, the fact they missed opportunities in both – having led the Lions at quarter-time and claimed a third-quarter lead against the Power – they were still left lamenting defeat.
"There were mixed emotions after our last game (against Port Adelaide)," Crisp said.
"We really wanted to win that to avoid coming over here to Western Australia, but it is what it is. The boys have embraced the challenge for what it is. It's going to be another good finals series.
"We love coming over to Perth because it's always a good challenge, no matter who we play. But we're ready to go and we're ready for a fierce contest."
There are also bad memories from the last time Collingwood met West Coast at Optus Stadium. Having claimed a 14-point lead at quarter-time back in July this year, the Pies then conceded 11 straight goals in the second half to succumb to a dismal 66-point defeat.
Josh Kennedy kicked seven goals, while young duo Oscar Allen and Jake Waterman combined for five more, as the Magpies backline was overrun by a series of rapid Eagles attacks.
However, 10 rounds on, Crisp believes Collingwood is a better side now than it was earlier in the season. He also believes the side is far more familiar with its surroundings, having again taken residence in the luxurious Joondalup Resort while quarantining in Western Australia.
"We haven't looked into West Coast as of yet," Crisp said.
"But obviously from the previous few years that we've played them, they've played a similar brand of football. We just got smashed around the contest and lost a lot of one-on-ones.
"We were pulled apart by them defensively. They were able to do as they pleased. We feel like we're in better shape as a team now, so we'll look into them on Thursday before we train and focus more heavily on them then. But we feel like we're in a good spot."