Sport AFL AFL: Buckley concedes Magpies have no easy answers to slump
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AFL: Buckley concedes Magpies have no easy answers to slump

Crushed and crestfallen Magpies shuffle off the field after blowing yet another four-point opportunity. Photo: AAP/Julian Smith
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Collingwood is in a slump and coach Nathan Buckley admits there are no easy answers as the Magpies head into a defining period of their AFL season.

The Pies are in danger of losing their top-two foothold after their second loss in as many weeks, going down to Hawthorn by four points at the MCG.

Friday night’s 9.13 (67) to 9.9 (63) defeat has cast fresh doubt on Collingwood’s premiership credentials at a time when the club badly needed a lift in confidence.

The Magpies come up against their 2018 grand-final conquerors West Coast at Optus Stadium next Friday, having lost their last four games against the Eagles.

They then take on GWS in Sydney before a round 19 showdown with Richmond at the MCG in what shapes as a critical period.

“We’re out of form … and in the end, there’s no easy way out of that. You’ve just got to work through it,” Buckley said.

“There’s individuals that aren’t quite in the form they’d like to be in and if you add that as a collective, I don’t think we’re gelling together as a team quite as effectively as we’d like to.

“We battled away and ground away for most of the night tonight and were in a winning position. But form is definitely an issue, individually and collectively.”

Buckley pointedly questioned his players’ physical efforts in a 44-point loss to North Melbourne last week, which he labelled embarrassing.

While noting his side’s improved physicality against the Hawks, Buckley conceded there were still plenty of issues to work out.

Small forward Jamie Elliott, playing in his first game in two months, managed just seven disposals and appeared off the pace.

Mason Cox (one goal) also had a night to forget, dropping several easy marks including one directly in front of goal in the final term.

“It’s a key aspect of the game of footy, to be able to compete in the air,” Buckley said.

“I thought aerially, we just weren’t able to get that contest right often enough to give ourselves a chance to take field position from it.”

Second-gamer Oliver Hanrahan and fellow rookie Mitchell Lewis played key roles in the Hawks’ resurgence, each finishing with two goals, while defender James Sicily was best-afield with 28 disposals and 14 marks.

Led brilliantly by Sicily and Isaac Smith (25 disposals), Hawthorn eventually got on top in the final term after trailing by 10 points at three-quarter time.

Lewis put the Hawks ahead for the first time with a cool set shot from 45m out midway through the quarter, followed by Hanrahan kicking his second.

Will Hoskin-Elliott’s mark and goal with two minutes left got the Magpies back within a goal, but the Hawks won the ensuing centre clearance and hung on to snap a four-game losing streak and move to 11th on the ladder.

The Pies will be left to lament some dreadful skill errors with equal-leading possession winner Adam Treloar (31 touches) among the worst culprits.

Small forward Jamie Elliott, playing in his first game in two months, managed just seven disposals and appeared off the pace.

Mason Cox (one goal) also had a night to forget, dropping several easy marks including one directly in front of goal in the final term.

The Pies come up against their 2018 grand-final conquerors West Coast at Optus Stadium next Friday, having lost their last four games against the Eagles.

They then take on GWS in Sydney before a round 19 showdown with Richmond at the MCG in what shapes as a season-defining period.

Hawthorn’s Daniel Howe will face match review scrutiny for a second-quarter incident in which he kneed Scott Pendlebury in the head while pinned.

-AAP