Collingwood puts the AFL on notice in a major way

BRISBANE, Australia -- If Nathan Buckley shows his players just one quarter of match vision this year, it must be the first term of Collingwood's 62-point drubbing of Brisbane on Thursday night.

Not because the Pies scored 47 points -- their highest first quarter score since 2016. Not because they had a staggering 110 disposals to the Lions' 72, either. But because of the dramatic momentum swings which stemmed from winning the contested possession count.

In the first five minutes, the Pies were +6 in contested footy and as a result raced out to an early 14-0 lead. In that time, they also had four inside 50s to zip, as well as three marks inside their forward arc.

Then it turned. The next eight minutes belonged to the Lions who managed to square the contested possession ledger and as a result close the margin to just two points, sending the capacity Gabba crowd into a frenzy.

But the momentum swung yet again. In the final 10 minutes of the term, Collingwood won the contested ball by five, kicked four goals, and the margin ballooned out to 27 points -- one which in the end proved to be insurmountable.

"We were able to get our hands on it quite a bit and I thought it was weight of numbers in the end," Buckley said of the win. "We were just able to take advantage of enough clearances and our forwards looked dangerous all night.

"We've just got to keep going back to processes. Our offence is coming along, our defence is coming along and our contest ball work."

It doesn't take a genius to decipher what the winning formula is for the Magpies: contested possessions.

In the next three quarters, the Pies continued to have the edge in contested ball and eventually notched their highest score of the year while handing the Lions their heaviest defeat in over 12 months.

"I haven't had a chance to reflect on it too much, but coming off the ground my first thoughts were they outworked us from contest to contest," star Brisbane recruit Lachie Neale told ESPN. "One of our KPIs is we want to win contested footy and I don't think we did it tonight. That's all about work rate.

"They're a really talented and skillful side and they were able to find targets a bit too easy. We were just beaten by a better team."

After battling through the first month of football and emerging a somewhat disappointing 2-2, pressure was on the pre-season flag favourites to deliver on all the hype.

The Pies were having no trouble finding the ball in the early rounds -- accumulating more of the Sherrin than any other team -- but their contested possession work had been far more inconsistent.

It's no coincidence that Collingwood thrashed Richmond in Round 2, a night where they were +24 in that statistical area. On the flip side, their season-opening loss to Geelong saw them lose the count by eight.

The Pies won the contested footy in their loss to West Coast, but that speaks more to the unique, uncontested style of football Adam Simpson has the reigning premiers playing. Last week, against the Dogs, they won it again and won the game.

Statistics don't always tell the full story or paint the right picture, but for the Pies, it's pretty clear what they need to do, and that's get their hands dirty.

If they start hunting the ball with a bit more frequency, they are going to be very, very hard to beat in season 2019.