Collingwood hold no fear for Melbourne, as the two AFL clubs attempt to reignite a rivalry that has turned tepid in recent years.
A crowd of 50,835 watched the sides square off at the MCG last year, the lowest attendance on Queen’s Birthday since the clash became a regular fixture in 2001.
It came five years after then chief executive Andrew Demetriou warned Melbourne’s supporters to turn up, otherwise the AFL would look at handing the date over to “other clubs who are desperate to have an event”.
With the Demons now the league’s feel-good story following a sudden resurgence under new coach Paul Roos, the club’s annual cash cow is expected to deliver a much greater return.
Roos spoke earlier in the week of how he was hoping to attract up to 80,000 to Australia’s most storied stadium.
Defender Colin Garland wants to play in front of the sort of large crowds the Magpies enjoy most rounds.
But Garland said that was very much up to he and his team-mates.
“And when it comes to Queen’s Birthday, we haven’t really held up our side of the bargain recently,” Garland said, referencing an average losing margin of 71 points in the past three encounters.
“Win, loss or draw I hope our supporters walk away saying ‘the guys looked good’.
“We know we’ll be up against it. They’re a top-four side in good form, but we don’t fear the ‘Pies.”
The Demons’ new-found defensive steel has underlined their improvement this season.
At the start of round 12 they were ranked sixth for fewest goals conceded, letting in an average of 11.2 a game.
In 2013, that number was 17.9 and they bettered only GWS.
Garland said an adherence to Roos’ non-negotiables – tackling, pressure and quick defensive transition – were partly responsible.
“It’s pretty clear. If you don’t do that, you don’t play,” he said.
But the 26-year-old added that time spent building “respect and relationships” during pre-season was just as important.
“The time we put in was pretty immense. Not just meetings and footy, but time off the field,” he said.
“We had more time around the club together. We talked a lot about leaving the past behind.
“In previous years we defended as a back six. Now we’re defending as 22 players.”