Collingwood prove doubters severely wrong ... again

MELBOURNE CRICKET GROUND -- Cast your mind back to a little after 11pm on Friday night of Round 19.

Collingwood had just been annihilated by Richmond, their fourth loss in five games, and the top four berth they appeared to have sewn up just after the bye rounds had seemingly disappeared.

Nathan Buckley's side was injury-ravaged and, quite simply, horribly out of form. Scoring a competitive total had become a huge issue and the midfield group which many pre-season experts dubbed one of the greatest ever assembled, just wasn't living up to the hype.

So what did we all do? We wrote them off, of course. It's as if we learned nothing from the Bulldogs in 2016, the Tigers of 2017 and last year's Eagles.

But a four and zip run to finish the season, combined with some stumbling top four rivals meant the Pies were able lock up the double chance and head into September with a glimmer of hope that they could go one better than last year.

And on Friday night, in the space of two and a half hours, that glimmer of hope morphed into some serious flag credentials as Collingwood brushed aside minor premiers Geelong in a qualifying final eerily reminiscent of last year's preliminary final drubbing of Richmond -- if only for the first quarter and a half. In truth, the eventual 10-point full-time margin really did flatter Chris Scott's side.

"You probably saw by the reaction at the end of the game that it means a lot," Jack Crisp told ESPN. "They came hard at the end, but to our credit we stood up when we needed to. We're super pumped."

The game began in ominous fashion with the Pies winning the first 10 inside 50s and owning the territory battle. Before the game clock had reached 12 minutes, their lead was already 20-0.

By midway through the second term, the dynamic and new look Collingwood forward line was wreaking havoc. Jamie Elliott had kicked two goals, Will Hoskin-Elliott had one, Brodie Mihocek was providing a target and, perhaps most importantly, the returning Jaidyn Stephenson looked like he hadn't skipped a beat.

When the margin ballooned out to 36 points, the rowdy black and white army which had made Geelong's 'home' game at the MCG feel anything but home, were already making game day plans for preliminary final weekend.

The Cats rallied in the second half but never really threatened until it was too late, the Pies holding on to become the first team in 2019 to book a place in the final four. That's right, the very team many had given almost no chance of contending for the flag just six weeks ago, was into the preliminary finals.

"We feel really confident in the way we play football and we always knew we could get back to playing at a high level," Crisp told ESPN. "It wasn't so much getting players back, but more the way we play. We were lacking intensity in everything that we did.

"Four weeks ago we had a real big focus on our defence because we were too easy to score against. We were losing aerial contests and ground ball contests and pretty much getting beaten all over the ground. The focus was to do that and then everything else will look after itself. It's paid dividends."

It wasn't a perfect night for Collingwood, however.

Star forward Jordan De Goey sustained hamstring tightness in the second quarter and played no further part after halftime, while reliable defender Levi Greenwood was also put on ice with a knee injury.

These further injuries will likely fuel more speculation that the Pies can't go all the way in 2019, but if football in recent years has taught us anything it's that you just can't give up on a side, particularly a side with so much class.

Just think about this; the two teams we've written off at various stages this year, in Collingwood and Richmond, are now the two most likely to win the premiership.