Scott Pendlebury and Christian Salem spruik chances of Collingwood Magpies and Melbourne Demons in qualifying final
“We were just off that final five to 10 per cent, and that is all you need to be off in that competition, and once we got through that little bit of a rough patch, we played pretty well,” Pendlebury said. “That last game was super-important for us.”
He said the Magpies legion of fans were also helping drive the team in their quest for a 16th premiership.
The Magpies have attracted just one crowd of less than 60,000 at the MCG this season – a Mother’s Day clash against the Giants – and Pendlebury said he expected Collingwood’s fans would outnumber, and drown out the sound made by, Melbourne supporters as both teams attempt to qualify for a home preliminary final.
Speaking after training in front of about 3000 fans on Sunday morning, the former Magpies skipper was confident the team would play well.
“I feel like the fans at the moment are driving a lot of the [team’s] momentum. [They will] turn the place over there (the MCG) into a colosseum for us,” Pendlebury said.
“It’s a different season now, the pressure goes up in games and I feel like our game is in good shape. [It’s] going to be a cracking contest.
“They [Melbourne] know what we want to do. We know what they want to do, and it just comes down to: ‘go out there, execute’. Finals are a small margin, so hopefully we can look after those things.”
The veteran, who stood aside as captain at the end of 2022, allowing for Darcy Moore to take over, won the Norm Smith Medal in the grand final rematch of 2010 and has played in four grand finals (including the 2010 draw). He will play his 29th final on Thursday night and is showing no signs of slowing down.
Steele Sidebottom was a teammate in that 2010 premiership, which was a much younger line-up than the team Collingwood will field on Thursday night. Pendlebury is aware that time is running out for him and teammates Mason Cox, Jamie Elliott, Jeremy Howe, Brody Mihocek and Tom Mitchell – all aged in their 30s – to play in a premiership.
“We are no longer spring chickens are we?” Pendlebury joked.
Having seen plenty of teams succeed and fail over his illustrious career, he has a strong sense that the team is good enough to go all the way.
“Just [with] the body of work we have done over the season, I know our best footy is going to stack up,” Pendlebury said.
Salem was a key player in the Demons’ 2021 premiership, which broke a drought of 57 years for the club. But because of COVID-19 lockdowns, that grand final win over the Western Bulldogs happened at Optus Stadium in Perth, meaning many of the players’ families were unable to attend, and many supporters also missed out on being there. Salem said the motivation to win a premiership at the MCG was running high within the team.
Pendlebury said pressure for places in the Collingwood line-up had driven the team, and the relative lack of injuries had kept training standards high.
The only player unavailable for this week’s game is Brownlow Medal fancy Nick Daicos, who was back running as part of his recovery from a hairline fracture in his right leg. He will be available for the Magpies second final, and Pendlebury is confident he will adapt quickly to the game when he returns despite experiencing a six-week break between games.
“It won’t be that big a hill for him to climb,” Pendlebury said.
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