COLLINGWOOD has turned the spotlight on its midfielders, declaring they will need to improve their ball use and help deliver goals if the Magpies are to prevail in tonight's semi-final against West Coast.
The Magpies' onballers were left battered and bruised by Hawthorn in last week's qualifying final defeat.
Real Footy finals: Collingwood v West Coast
The second week of footy finals has arrived and Michael Gleeson, Robert Walls and Emma Quayle talk over the line-up for Saturday night's game.
Both Dale Thomas, who yesterday admitted he had had a ''shocker'' with just five kicks among his 17 disposals, and Dayne Beams (corked calf) reportedly required post-match scans on injuries. Concerns were also raised about the defensive qualities of the midfield and a slump in goal scoring.
The Magpies' midfield has averaged 7.2 goals a game this season, but the likes of Scott Pendlebury, Dane Swan, Beams and Thomas failed to hit the scoreboard against the Hawks. Only Sharrod Wellingham, with two goals, had an impact.
As the Magpies continue to deal with the death of former teammate John McCarthy, defensive coach Ben Hart yesterday said that more was needed from the midfield.
''One of the things we can bring to the table is the spread out of the midfield and hopefully get a real offensive game going,'' Hart said. ''If that means they kick goals or they set up some easy ones for our forwards, that would be great.''
Thomas yesterday said he had also battled a cold through the week, but he trained yesterday and has been declared fit for the big clash.
The Magpies have analysed where they turned the ball over against the Hawks, and will be wary of again doing so in areas - presumably the centre corridor - that can quickly result in goals to the Eagles.
Hart acknowledged the Eagles' blue-chip midfield would be dangerous with the ball in hand and wants his entire team to play with composure or, as he put it, ''ice in the head''.
''I think if you do that [turn the ball over] against anyone you can get hurt, especially this time of the year with the sides that are around,'' he said. ''The other thing is, where we turn the ball over.
''It's not just all on defensive spread from the midfield, it's where we turn the ball over and how.
''We need to be a bit cleaner with the ball going forward and hopefully we can put some scoreboard [pressure] on that way, so hopefully we don't have to run as hard back.''
Hart said he expected veteran defender Chris Tarrant to physically test his opponent, just as he did last week with Lance Franklin. Tarrant is likely to spend time on Nic Naitanui and Jack Darling.
''It's the way that Chris plays his best footy, I think, is he's aggressive,'' Hart said.
''Whoever he lines up on, I'm sure, at times, he'll be putting his body into them.
''Forwards do that as well, they put their bodies into defenders.
''It's probably something we expect from our guys, to be physical and try to stamp themselves [on the game].''
The Magpies have made two changes for tonight's clash. Suspended captain Nick Maxwell has been replaced by utility Tyson Goldsack, who is returning from an ankle injury, while small forward Jamie Elliott will come in for Ben Sinclair, a small forward himself.
The Eagles crunched the Magpies by 49 points when they last met, in round 22 at Patersons Stadium.
''One thing we learn from that was our contested footy was nowhere near the standard [required] and our clearance work was below par. That is something we have to get on top of,'' Hart said.
The Magpies were without ruckman Darren Jolly on that night, helping the Eagles win the hitout count 59-12.
Magpies chief executive Gary Pert yesterday said it wouldn't be until the game began that he could assess just what impact McCarthy's death had had on the team.