Pies look for strong AFL season finish

There’s been plenty of talk about meaningless games as the home-and-away AFL season comes to an end but don’t tell Collingwood their clash against Essendon is a worthless dead rubber.

The Magpies won’t be playing finals for the third year in succession but they see Sunday’s season finale as an opportunity to take another step down the path that coach Nathan Buckley has set out for them.

“I think it’s important for us to continue to build for where we’re going,” assistant coach Ben Hart told AAP.

“To finish off the season playing the way you want to can hopefully give you a bit of drive into the pre-season and even next year.

“Certainly we’ll want to give our fans a bit of hope, so they can better see the direction that the club’s going in, and give them a bit of a look at some of the exciting younger players that we’ve got coming through.

“I think both teams will be keen to have a really good finish.”

After an 8-3 opening half of the season, the Pies find themselves well out of the running in 12th spot going into round 23, having won just two of their past 10 games.

With his side’s finals fate sealed before they took on Geelong last week, Buckley took the opportunity to change things up a bit.

Skipper Scott Pendlebury spent more time out of the centre square, and was no less damaging, but younger mids like Taylor Adams, Jack Crisp and Jordan de Goey were key contributors as the Pies upset the Cats to dash their finals hopes.

Don’t expect Pendlebury to be banished from the stoppages on the back of that result but it’s fair to say that Buckley will continue to try a few different things against the Bombers.

“It wasn’t just Pendles, we had a few guys thrown around into different spots, it’s something to keep an eye on in the future,” Hart said.

“Pendles is clearly one of our strongest midfielders, without doubt, but to throw some other guys in there and give them some more responsibility is good for us to have a look at.”

Collingwood made three changes for the clash, with Dane Swan the key out with a knee injury and Adam Oxley, Ben Kennedy and Alan Toovey coming into the side.

Essendon great Dustin Fletcher couldn’t throw off a groin injury to play a farewell game and ended his storied career on 400 games, with Kyle Langford, Elliott Kavanagh, Shaun Edwards and Tayte Pears all included.

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