The odds are that Collingwood, even without Jordan de Goey, can earn the right to avenge last year’s devastating five points AFL grand final loss to West Coast.
After dumping Geelong in the qualifying final the Magpies meet Greater Western Sydney in the first preliminary final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground from 4.35 p.m. on Saturday.
The major concern for coach Nathan Buckley going into the clash is the last quarter fade out by the Magpies two weeks ago, which allowed the Cats to come back from seven goals down in the second quarter to lose by only 10 points.
It is an issue Buckley has addressed, in no uncertain terms, over the last two weeks and as true professionals his players should respond to his demands.
It is a matter which captain Scott Pendlebury has taken on board and, once again, he should be an inspiring leader.
Pendlebury, along with Taylor Adams, can be expected to generate a constant series of attacking moves from midfield.
Jaidyn Stephenson, who impressed against the Cats when coming back from a 10-week suspension, Jamie Elliott and others have the ability to capitalise on those forward thrusts.
Brodie Grundy, who is without peer among the game’s ruckmen, is also another important driving force while Jeremy Howe, who took 13 marks against Geelong, can be relied upon in defence.
The Giants will also be going into the encounter without a key player in Toby Greene, who was outed after infringing in the club’s three-point win over Brisbane.
It is difficult to explain how Greene, who disturbingly was not suspended for his facial attack on Western Bulldog Marcus Bontempelli in the elimination final, received just one week.
There is no doubt that Green’s brilliance will be missed, which will place increased pressure on the likes of Matt de Boer and Josh Kelly.
There is no doubt though that captain Phil Davis, who took six intercept marks against the Lions will be a problem the Magpies forwards will have to overcome, but they are a mobile, fast-moving group.
It seems more than likely Collingwood’s opponent in the grand final will be 2017 premiers Richmond.
Although the Cats were able to humble West Coast last week Richmond must be favourite to win their preliminary final at the MCG on Friday night.
Coach Damien Hardwick has brought the Tigers to the finals with a “Bart Cummings-like” preparation that has the team on a 10-game winning streak.
Part of the credit for this is down to the creative, and tough, Dustin Martin, who is playing as well as ever.
Captain Trent Cotchin is always a help while Jack Reiwoldt, Tom Lynch and Daniel Rioli have combined into a formidable attack.
Added to that Dylan Grimes, Bachar Houli and Brandon Ellis are always difficult to pass in defence.
Following a four-goal performance against the Eagles – he was goal-less in the three previous matches – the one week suspension incurred by spearhead Tom Hawkins is a blow for the Cats.
It was reassuring for Geelong that skipper Joel Selwood produced a season’s best effort against West Coast while forward Esava Ratugolea lifted his game.
Patrick Dangerfield, who was again influential after a slow start, had support from the eminently courageous Luke Dahlhaus but Gary Ablett seems to be feeling his age.
At the same time Ablett is one of the AFL’s greats so he will be intent on redeeming himself.
Richmond by 17pts
Collingwood by 28pts