Collingwood defender Nathan Brown has urged his teammates to discover their "true grit" in a bid to avoid another fade-out in the second half of the season.
The Magpies have been well positioned at 8-3 at the mid-point of the season in the past two years but have crumbled and failed to make the finals.
Champion Data has shown that, outside of the Magpies' collapse, of the 56 teams which have had at least eight wins by the mid-point of the season since 1999, 55 have featured in September.
Injuries, naturally, have not helped the Magpies, but they now have more experience and greater depth, particularly with former Lion James Aish, former Giant Adam Treloar and former Demon Jeremy Howe coming aboard.
Brown, a member of the Magpies' leadership group, said greater commitment was needed if the Pies were to return to the finals for the first time since 2013.
"If you go through the tapes, you can actually pinpoint the moments where in the third quarter or last quarter we've had to either dig in and find that true grit and grind out a game, or go the other way. And more often than not, last year, in the last two years, we went the other way," Brown said on Monday.
"I don't know if it's inexperience or just that ability to be able to knuckle down and grind out a win.
"We've been in such good positions in games and then we have just let that go, so I think that's why we tailed off towards the second half of the year.
"We have definitely got to find a bit in those parts of games to be able to fight out and get those wins and get back into the top eight and then get into September."
What hurt the Pies last year was a schedule which was relatively soft through the opening 12 rounds (Champion Data listed it as the easiest through this period) where they played only three top-eight teams and no top-four teams. This changed dramatically after the break.
They have a mixed start to the season proper this year, facing Sydney (ANZ Stadium) and Richmond (MCG) in the opening fortnight before St Kilda, Melbourne and Essendon await.
Speaking on Radio Sport National, Brown said Taylor Adams and Brent Macaffer deserved their spot in the leadership group, replacing Travis Cloke and Tyson Goldsack.
"Guys like Brent Macaffer and Taylor Adams have grown so much that the guys have seen that they are going to lead us where we want to go, so they have to be in the group. That's why they were picked," Brown said.
"Even though they [Cloke and Goldsack] have left the leadership group this year, we've spoken to them and put it on them to still strongly lead us.
"And they've said to us that even though they don't have the title, they're still going to strongly lead the players and have an influence on the group."
Brown said the Magpies had an "open and honest" playing list.
The lock-down defender enjoyed a strong 2015, missing only one match, through suspension, and will again have a crucial role to play.
Brown was rated "above average" by Champion Data, and ranked No.1 in the league in defending leads. He allowed opponents to mark only 61 per cent of the time, below the league average of 85 per cent. He conceded only 24 goals.
- JON PIERIK