THERE'S a lot to like about the way Collingwood plays its football. Its resilience, for one, was typified in Saturday night's against-the-odds victory over Adelaide at AAMI Stadium without more than half-a-dozen of its best 22.
You've also got to admire the Pies' combination of grit and glitz. And no single player represents that better than Scott Pendlebury. The Collingwood vice-captain doesn't elicit the same sort of collective drooling to which a handful of other stars are subject, but is there a better player in the AFL right now? Not in my view.
The win against the Crows summed him up beautifully. In a game so claustrophobic it was almost impossible to breathe, let alone find a way out of traffic, the midfield gun did it consistently, with smart thinking, quick hands, a brilliant football brain that picked the right option every time without fail, coupled with a preparedness to take and dish out the knocks as required.
Games as crowded as Saturday night's underline the advantage of Pendlebury's basketball background.
As usual, it was all done with minimum fuss and maximum efficiency. And perhaps therein is a key to the ritual underselling of this champion of the modern era. Pendlebury doesn't need conspicuous flourishes or demonstrative behaviour. He just motors along in a perpetual high gear, so consistent it's easy to forget how high he has the bar raised.
As a leader, too. While Nick Maxwell is rightly acknowledged as one of the AFL's best skippers, his job is made that much easier by his deputy, a de facto captain of the Pies' phenomenally consistent midfield group who, on Saturday night, without Dane Swan, simply stepped up yet another level, dragging the likes of Dayne Beams and Steele Sidebottom along with him.
He took charge, marshalled the Pies at the stoppages, and crept forward to play a decisive role, in keeping with his profile. It was not obvious on the scoreboard, where he did manage one vital goal, but his four score assists were double that of any other player on the ground.
Pendlebury finished the evening with five clearances, second only to Beams, and 29 disposals, bang on his season average and almost half of them contested. For most players that would be at least a season highlight. For Pendlebury, Saturday night was just more of the same.
So much so that in nine outings this season, only once has he been held to less than 29 disposals. That was in round three, against Carlton, and it was no small coincidence the Pies were taken to the cleaners. Neither has missed a beat since.
In form this red-hot, both he and Collingwood are going to take some stopping now.
Crows matched it with Collingwood for three quarters, Pies' experience told in the end. Fremantle in Perth a good test also.
Ready to be taken apart at half-time, but decent second half salvaged some respectability. Not all doom and gloom.
Nothing to write home about, but big last quarter and good games from Robinson and McLean obvious pluses.
Huge win against the odds, undermanned Pies pulled out another epic victory on the road. Must be flag favourite now.
Bombers did what they had to do against the new kids, never in danger of losing, but not overly impressive, either. Howlett's game the highlight.
Something going seriously amiss, last week's lack of resolve in Launceston almost duplicated in second half yesterday. Alarming slump.
Got the points, but Cats continuing to perform at a level several leagues below what we're used to. Will have to improve to challenge.
Again one shocking quarter cost the Suns any chance of victory. Day and Lynch showed signs, but other kids need to do more.
Probably better than 66-point margin indicated, but squandered chances when they did have the Dons under pressure. Cameron and Treloar at least pluses.
An absolute stinker from the Hawks, second to the ball all day, not nearly hungry enough against team with a point to prove. Hype still exceeding reality.
Hung in there for three quarters, but undid the good work with a poor final term. Better, but still miles off the pace.
Roos got their hard game back early, then sat back and watched a big lead whittled away. Match points, but little satisfaction.
Seven-goal third term earned Power first consecutive wins since the end of 2010, albeit against much weaker opponent than Carlton next week.
One of Tigers' best victories of recent times, harder and more efficient than Hawthorn, and packed a wallop when the game needed to be won.
Saints worked harder than the Swans, encouraging signs from raft of players beyond the veteran core, responding well to coaching of Watters.
Has lost three of its past four now, and badly missed star quality of Goodes and Mumford. Swans lacking depth of other top four contenders.
Powerful performance, wrestled for a half, then chewed up and spat out opponent, Rosa the standout this time. Eagles running hot.
Doggies gave it a serious shake on Friday night, failure to convert opportunity again their achilles heel. Nothing wanting for effort, though.