Slow starts in matches have finally cracked Collingwood, whose AFL season is in freefall on the back of six straight losses.
Midfielder Steele Sidebottom said in the wake of Saturday’s upset 37-point loss to Melbourne that it felt like the Magpies had been chasing their tails.
Collingwood have been in front only once at quarter time during the losing streak, which followed a promising 8-3 start to the season.
“It just feels like we probably haven’t started well – we’re playing catch-up footy for the rest of the day,” Sidebottom told Channel Nine’s The Footy Show.
“It feels like we can’t get in front, maybe one goal off.
“It just makes it hard, to be fighting from behind all day.”
The Magpies are now 11th, a game and a half outside the top eight.
The only factor in their favour is that their percentage of 111.3 is easily the best among the teams jockeying for eighth spot.
That will quickly become irrelevant if the lack of effort against Melbourne becomes a habit.
Collingwood had been resilient for several weeks, but coach Nathan Buckley bemoaned a lack of reward for effort in the wake of the Melbourne loss.
Club president Eddie McGuire did not mince his words about the significance of Saturday’s disaster.
“It’s a horror day, a horror month and a half, and that makes it really hard for us,” McGuire said.
Damningly, forward Alex Fasolo said on Saturday night that “it felt like there were 21 islands out there” when discussing the lack of connection in the team.
Questions are also being asked of Collingwood’s decision to drop key forward Jesse White for the Demons match.
White has been out of form, but his absence meant the Melbourne defence could focus on first-year player Darcy Moore.
“Some will say `thank goodness’ … but I just think it was the wrong move,” commentator and ex-Essendon goalkicking great Matthew Lloyd said.
“With (Travis) Cloke not playing, he needed to be played.”
And small forward Jamie Elliott’s return from injury as the substitute also raised eyebrows.
But when asked about White’s omission, Sidebottom said the loss was due to much more than one player.
He also argued the Magpies were in better shape than a year ago, when they also fell away late in the season.
“Where we are now and where we were last year, we’re ahead,” he said.
Collingwood should beat lowly Carlton when the two arch-rivals clash next Saturday at the MCG.