In a nutshell
Stormed to 10-3 before stumbling as personnel issues once again took a toll, only to bounce back to make the top four, win their first final and come within a straight kick of another Grand Final appearance.
What we said in the pre-season
I wasn't on my own in tipping the Pies to make the Grand Final and they came desperately close to doing just that. I nominated Dayne Beams to be the recruit of the year, but that was derailed by the star midfielder's hip, shoulder and mental health issues. I also had Darcy Moore as a surprise All Australian, which wouldn't have surprised midway through the season. In my best 22 last October I placed Lynden Dunn at full-back and left out ex-Dog Jordan Roughead, but things changed dramatically for both men.
The Pies snapped up ex-Bulldogs big man Jordan Roughead for a song and he proved a superb acquisition as a key defender and occasional forward and back-up ruckman.
After a disastrous 2017 season, key defender Darcy Moore (17 games) and small forward Jamie Elliott (16) still missed chunks of football but they played key roles in the finals.
The Pies' midfield brigade continued to generate a lot of the ball, led by star ruckman Brodie Grundy, skipper Scott Pendlebury, Adam Treloar, Steele Sidebottom and Tom Phillips.
YOUR CLUB'S BROWNLOW NIGHT Leader, top five, total votes
Grundy generally won the hitouts convincingly but the Pies didn't convert them into as many clearances as they should have.
The Magpies had to soldier on for long periods without the likes of Jordan De Goey, Taylor Adams, Jaidyn Stephenson, Tom Langdon, Dayne Beams and Mason Cox.
Premiership quarter fadeout
Despite producing an inspiring last quarter in the preliminary final loss to Greater Western Sydney, the Pies are left to rue a poor third term in which they were belted 5.2 to 0.3.
A solid showing, particularly given they carried another long casualty list for much of the season.
Contracted to 2021, Nathan Buckley was again beset by setbacks among his playing group but still managed to galvanise his team at the business end and put it into contention for a Grand Final berth.
Brodie Grundy: The athletic big man lifted his game to another level this year, earning All Australian selection for the second successive season, this time as the No.1 ruckman.
RED CARPET GALLERY Check out all the best photos
John Noble: The flyweight mid-season draftee from West Adelaide quickly made his presence felt with his speed and ball use across half-back, averaging 18 touches in five games, including both finals. Would have played more had he not suffered a calf injury.
Isaac Quaynor: The club's top draft pick of 2018 made four appearances in his debut season before a foot injury ended his campaign but showed enough to suggest he will develop into a powerful, line-breaking playmaker.
Brayden Sier: After playing an important inside role in 2018, the 21-year-old was squeezed out of the midfield by Dayne Beams, battled injury and form issues and managed just six games.
Round 17: Collingwood 11.12 (78) d. West Coast 12. 5 (77)
The Pies had lost their previous two games to eventual non-finalists North Melbourne and Hawthorn and suffered an early injury to key defender Darcy Moore, but showed true grit to have the last 10 scoring shots (for 2.8) to snatch victory.
INDICATIVE DRAFT ORDER Your club's picks as they stand
Best individual performance
Jordan de Goey: Round two v Richmond
The superstar captured the imagination of the football public with a sensational five-goal display in the Magpies' 44-point win over the Tigers. His second-quarter screamer was one for the highlight reel.
Reigning NAB AFL Rising Star winner Jaidyn Stephenson was flying when he was sensationally suspended for the last 10 rounds for betting on Collingwood games. The Pies' attack wasn't the same in his absence.
The big questions
Can the Pies retain Grundy, Moore and De Goey – each of whom are entering the last year of their contracts – without suffering some collateral damage?
Can Moore, Elliott and now De Goey – all patients of the mystical 'Healing Hans' – be completely cured of their hamstring issues?
Will Beams return to health and fitness to fulfil the final three years of his contract and have meaningful impact?
Season in a movie title
Retirements: Tyson Goldsack, Daniel Wells
Delistings: Sam Murray (rookie)
Unsigned free agents: Tim Broomhead (rookie), Lynden Dunn, Jamie Elliott, Ben Reid
WHO'S HANGING UP THE BOOTS? Your club's retirements and delistings
How should they approach trade and draft period?
The Pies still need big men to fill holes in attack and defence, and also as ruck support for Brodie Grundy. But good ones are tough to secure when your first pick is down at No.33.
Early call for 2020
The pain from their past two finals campaigns should drive the Pies through another big pre-season and sustain them for another top-four tilt.