Sunday, September 16, 2012

2012 AFL Finals Series: Sydney vs. Collingwood

Magpies 'coming good at right time'

Updated: 18:36, Sunday September 16, 2012

Magpies 'coming good at right time'

Collingwood have improved markedly in the past three weeks, and have more to come ahead of the AFL preliminary final, says Magpies coach Nathan Buckley.
Magpies coach Nathan Buckley believes his side has improved 10 to 15 per cent per match over the past three weeks, and can improve further in the preliminary final showdown with Sydney at ANZ Stadium on Friday night.
Collingwood's hard-fought 13-point semi-final win over West Coast at the MCG has lifted them to within a victory of the grand final.
And despite just a six-day break ahead of the preliminary final, they have an excellent recent record against the Swans - beating them in their past 11 meetings.
'We think that one has us building to where we want to be,' Buckley said.
'We still feel there's some upside in us. The last three weeks have been 10 or 15 per cent (improvement) on top of each other.
'Now we've got to go again.
'Internally we could feel the difference in the way we played against Essendon, against Hawthorn and now.'
The Magpies' up-and-down season and slow burn over the past month was encapsulated perfectly in Saturday night's 10.13.73 to 9.6.60 win.
Trailing by 23 points early and struggling, the Magpies lifted their tackling pressure in an enthralling second quarter, before Dale Thomas lit up the match with three goals in six third-quarter minutes to swing the match Collingwood's way.
Yet again they fell behind in the fourth term before more guts finally led to glory.
Buckley felt Thomas' contribution was important and timely after a difficult season marred by niggling injuries.
'Like the club itself, Dale's been scrutinised and criticised fairly heavily over the last period of time,' Buckley said.
'Great quality, (he has) a great deal of pride in his performance, he's the type of guy who loves the big stage and has always played well in finals.
'He and the club would have liked to have had a smoother season.
'But sometimes it's not about where you start, it's where you finish.
'We believe over the last two or three weeks, we've played as good footy as we have all year, and it's a good time to be doing that.'

Special bond pushing Sydney's bid for a premiership

Sydney Swans
MEET the secret to Sydney's success - the engine room, or heartbeat, of the Swans.

They are a blend of young and old, enthusiasm and hard-edged finals experience.
Elder statesmen Ryan O'Keefe, Jude Bolton and co-captain Jarrad McVeigh have combined with rising stars Josh Kennedy, Lewis Jetta, Dan Hannebery and Kieren Jack to give the Swans one of the most dominant midfields in the AFL.
They are crucial to next Friday night's preliminary final at ANZ Stadium.
Last weekend, this band of brothers beat the competition's top-ranked team for contested possession on their home turf in Adelaide.
"The young guys provide the excitement and Pebbs (Ryan O'Keefe) and Jude (Bolton) bring the experience and calm heads under pressure," McVeigh told The Sunday Telegraph yesterday.
"When you see guys like Jetts (Jetta), Josh (Kennedy) and Dan Hannebery running around and playing well, it gives you excitement and you want to produce as well for your team.
"To bring that together as a group is a big reason why we're playing well."
Underlining their success is the fact Kennedy, Jetta and Jack have all been shortlisted for the All-Australian team.
But it's not just the star trio which have catapulted the Swans towards a grand final.
"Our depth in general has improved," Jack said. "That been a result of young blokes coming in setting high standards. Luke Parker and Jetts have gone to another level.
"You know what you're going to get from the older blokes like Ryan O'Keefe and Jude Bolton, but the next younger tier has stepped up.
"Our midfield is a lot more complete. Even our interchanges, we get Josh Kennedy and Ryan O'Keefe coming off and Luke Parker and Craig Bird and myself coming on.
"There's not much difference between our best and our worst midfielders.
"Our defenders talk about being a group within a group and we gave them some stick when we first heard that, but it's true and the midfield is a group within a group as well.
"We lookout for each other, we look after each other and when you see guys like Jetts and Luke Parker doing what they are doing at a consistent level, it is inspiring."
With a preliminary final looming on Friday night, even the slightest gains in performance could be the difference between success and failure.
"We're confident," McVeigh said. "We had a light week this week and then we'll ramp it up for Friday night."

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