New culture, team mentality behind Collingwood's success

MELBOURNE, Australia -- A re-shaping of club culture and the adoption of a "squad mentality" has been the catalyst behind Collingwood's unexpected return to the Grand Final, says midfielder Taylor Adams.

After struggling to a 13th place finish in 2017, few expected the Magpies to emulate Richmond's stunning achievement of 12 months earlier by claiming a spot in the Grand Final, particularly given the amount of injury setbacks the club had been forced to overcome throughout the year.

Jamie Elliott, Lynden Dunn, Daniel Wells, Matthew Scharenberg, Tim Broomhead and Darcy Moore have all suffered various season-ending injuries while plenty of others, most notably Tyson Goldsack, have missed large chunks of the year.

But Adams, who is now in his fifth season at Collingwood after having spent two years at Greater Western Sydney, said 2018 was all about building on the club's culture and buying into a team-first approach.

"What we've done this year is build a really strong culture at our footy club and we deserve to be here," Adams told ESPN during the Grand Final Parade. "We have played with a squad mentality and when we go out there we want 22 even contributors. It seemed to work for us this year.

"Obviously injuries are really difficult to take, for the individuals and the whole football club but our mantra all year has been one in, one out. We no longer rely on individuals to win us games of footy."

The Magpies were the AFL's dominant team in 2010 and 2011 -- contesting three grand finals in the space of 12 months -- but when Nathan Buckley replaced Mick Malthouse at the helm in 2012, he set out to change the club's culture as well as the external perception.

By the end of his second season in charge, Buckley had split up the infamous 'rat pack' of Alan Didak, Heath Shaw, Ben Johnson, Dane Swan and Dale Thomas, as the football club looked to create a new identity.

Six years on, and speaking ahead of the Grand Final, Buckley said he could not be prouder of the football club for the way it has managed to shake a negative stigma.

"Collingwood is a bit of a juggernaut and it has an identity that people externally view it as," Buckley said. "I think the players, from the inside out, and the football department, from the inside out, have been able to start shifting that perception and personality for the better.

"Pride is the overwhelming emotion. Pride in the individuals that have been a part of the club for a long period of time and the contributions they have made."