What I Love About My Club In 2024 – Collingwood

Timbo Higgins and Jono Mwanangela are our resident Collingwood supporters. Yep… two of them. Unbelievably bad luck.

Here, we hand the reins over to them as they bring you the things they love about the Pies in 2024.




There’s a truckload to love about the mighty Magpies in 2024. They are the reigning premiers after all.

I don’t think I will ever get tired of saying that. Which is why I’m pretty bullish on them this year.

Without further ado, let’s glance over what most Pies fans can look forward to heading into season ‘24.


The “Ted Lasso” Factor:

“For me, success is not about the wins and losses. It’s about helping these young fellas be the best version of themselves on and off the field” – Ted Lasso

If you haven’t seen the show, the above quote might seem silly or naïve. We are talking about professional sportspeople here, right? They must win at all costs. After all, this is what they are paid to do.

Perhaps it is McRae’s background as a teacher that led him down this rather unconventional style of coaching, and I have to admit, it does all feel a little bit warm and fuzzy. It’s certainly not what we’re used to seeing in AFL clubs. It’s now a family club, with partners, kids and parents ever-present, and there are signs everywhere how much McRae has transformed the culture at this club.

From a goal-kicking contest between all the players’ Dads on Father’s Day to Beau McCreery’s Mum giving a pre-game speech on Mother’s Day – a day where McRae ensured all of the players came to the game with flowers for their Mothers. There is a real feeling of connection amongst the players, staff and their families, and you know what? It looks like a fun place to be on a daily basis, and dammit isn’t that what playing sport is ultimately supposed to be about.

McRae preaches “getting better every day”. He’s not saying these young men must be perfect, just simply better than they were yesterday. Does this mean McRae does not want to win? Of course not. You need only look as far as his comments after a heartbreaking one-point prelim final loss to Sydney in 2022 “Winners pick themselves up and use the lessons and get better and use it for motivation. That’s what we do”

McRae’s modern coaching style and philosophy is a breath of fresh air, and in an era where mental health is so prevalent, you get the feeling this new coaching style has never been more important.

You can see this philosophy take shape on the field. Players are encouraged to take risks, and mistakes are celebrated almost as much as a smother or a Daicos goal (either Daicos will do). The team supports and trusts each other and plays to their strengths.

What this also means, is when the team are 6 goals down at 3 quarter time, all Mcrae has to do is tell them to trust themselves, trust each other and their process and more often than not, this turns into a favourable result (more on this later).

Mcrae is proving that a winning culture doesn’t have to be a ruthless cut-throat culture, and dare I say it? He is almost making the Pies likeable.


The Close-Game Kings:

In 2022 Collingwood won an incredible 9 games by 10 points or less, including a run of 6 consecutive wins from Round 17 to Round 21 where the average winning margin was 5.66 points. Leading into 2023, this had some pundits with a question mark next to the Pies’s credentials – surely they were riding their luck? Turn just a few of those close wins into losses and they would slide down the table, possibly out of the 8. I admit to having similar reservations myself.

I think 2023 proved this is no fluke.

The Pies again became masters at winning the close ones, including the biggest day on the AFL calendar. This can’t just be considered luck anymore, it is the culmination of several things.

Momentum is a big thing in AFL footy these days. Very rarely does a team control a game from the first to the last siren. More often than not, games ebb and flow, and the team that wins is the team that cannot only make the most of their momentum but curb the opposition when they have it. The Pies do this better than most teams in the league.

Add to this the ability to control momentum, the culture mentioned in my previous point and a healthy dose or process, and you have a perfectly written action/drama script when it comes to 3-quarter time. McRae is like an Academy award-winning Director – all he needs to do is say “action” and watch as a carefully choreographed action sequence, complete with fireworks and explosions, plays out in front of him.

While much has been written about this incredible record in close finishes, one aspect I don’t think is talked about often enough is the mental effect this must have on the opposition. If you’re not 8+ goals up over the Pies by 3-quarter time, you’re nervous. And I don’t mean like first-date nervous, I mean the type of nervous you get when you see a booze bus up ahead and you’re “pretty sure” you’re under .05.

These types of nerves lead to things like bad decisions, fumbles and basic skill errors. Meanwhile, the Pies will just keep coming, almost forcing the ball forward with sheer willpower. Mistakes mean nothing to the Pies in the last quarter, they just keep going. Why lose by 2 goals when you can take risks and lose by 4? Make no mistake, the Pies will throw everything at you, and you’d better be prepared, and it is great to watch.

Dare I say it again? This almost makes the Pies likable


Schultz & The SSP’:

What else is there to say about Lachie Schultz that hasn’t been said already?

If he isn’t a significant upgrade on Jack Ginnivan, then I’ll eat my shorts.

Three top ten finishes in his five seasons at Fremantle. Not to mention a combined total of 85 goals in his last three seasons at the Dockers. He complements the Pies forward mix that will make them a scary proposition for opposition defenders.

Craig McRae won’t just be happy with Schultz’s scoreboard impact, but also the pressure he applies. It’s a genius acquisition that gives the likes of Jamie Elliot, Beau McCreery and Bobby Hill the freedom of getting favourable matchups.

Schultz will prove to be one of the recruits of the year.

Collingwood has just recently finalised their list through the Supplemental Selection Period (SSP). Lachie Sullivan, Jack Bytel and Josh Eyre have all managed to land rookie spots.

The two-time Footscray VFL Best and Fairest winner, Sullivan, averaged 30.9 disposals, 7.6 clearances and 5.9 tackles per game last season. The 26-year-old is a more than capable operator.

Bytel was drafted in 2018. The 23-year-old only managed to play 22 games for the Saints. Although crueled by injury, some would say he was unlucky to be delisted having shown some promise when fit.

Even though Eyre suffered a hamstring tendon tear in training last week, the 21-year-old ex-Bomber showed enough in the trial period to secure a list spot.

All three will provide the Pies with solid depth. And while they are just depth, it’s been a strategic approach by the club to get access to ready-made players who can come in and do the job if need be. Bargain recruits.


McCreery The Midfielder

We know that Fly and his coaching panel love moving the magnets.

Since he has been at the helm, we’ve seen him be creative with his men and throw them in different positions for versatility and to be able to cover injury.

This year, Magpie fans can look forward to seeing Beau McCreery run through the middle in little spurts and how exciting will that be.

The move is something that gives the Pies engine room a bit of a point of difference, and it might even coincide with the arrival of Schultz.

We all know McCreery is a running machine and applies pressure like an animal. It’ll be intriguing to see how he goes in the midfield.

Coming into this season, he looks as fit as he’s ever been and has put on a bit of muscle. This will allow him to easily run through the midfield and give Jordan De Goey, Nick Daicos and Tom Mitchell a bit of a chop out.

I still expect him to play forward, so apologies to all the defenders out there who thought they were out of the firing line.

More midfield minutes will allow McCreery to add another string to his bow (no pun intended), and it’s a nice luxury for Fly to have when things aren’t working.

While he isn’t a big ball-getter, hopefully throwing him into the midfield will allow him to get his hands on it and get into games earlier.

The more McCreery has the ball in his hands, especially going inside 50, the more dangerous the Pies will look.


Bobby “Norm” Hill

It’s safe to say that Bobby Hill is only just getting started after his Grand Final performance.

The 24-year-old from Northam in Western Australia announced himself on the big stage with an eye-catching grand final performance, that saw him win the Norm Smith Medal.

It’s scary to think that, that was only just the start and got lots of improvement left in him. The sky’s the limit for this young man. Now with another preseason, he can use his pace to get right up the ground using his exquisite skills to bring others into the game.

I’ll echo the same sentiment with Bobby here, the more his teammates get the ball in his hands the better.

Last season he went at an average of 10.3 disposals and 1.4 goals. If he can bump that number up a bit this year and be a 15 disposals and 2 goals a game player, that’ll be pushing All-Australian territory.

I hate making comparisons but he can be Shai Bolton-like with the ability to take big hangers, push up to stoppages and burn his opponents going back and kick some freakish goals. Who knows, he could even be another trick up Fly’s sleeve and be thrown into more centre bounces or potentially have a run on the wing.

You can see his confidence grow last season after each round, especially in the finals series. I would love to see him crack the five-goal haul in 2024.

The world is his oyster.