Newly appointed Collingwood captain Scott Pendlebury has acknowledged that the Magpies had fallen off the pace of the competition leaders in 2013 and had not coped well when put under pressure, such as in the finals loss to Port Adelaide.
Pendlebury will head an enlarged, younger eight-man leadership group that contains the surprising names of Clinton Young, Lachlan Keeffe, Steele Sidebottom and Nathan Brown - newcomers all to the leadership posse - along with the departed skipper Nick Maxwell, Luke Ball and Travis Cloke. There is no nominated vice-captain.
Dayne Beams and Heritier Lumumba drop out from last year's leadership group.
Pendlebury, whose appointment as the new skipper to replace Maxwell was confirmed to him by president Eddie McGuire, chief executive Gary Pert, coach Nathan Buckley and football chief Rodney Eade on Wednesday morning, said the Magpies had recognised the need to work harder to bridge the gap over summer and that he expected the club to play finals again in 2014, but would not put a cap on what they might achieve.
Pendlebury added that he was sad to see his friend Dale Thomas head to Carlton.
''I sent him a text when the deal went through and just wished him luck at Carlton because he's a mate of mine and I want to see him do well. [You] shouldn't have to go through what he went through with his ankle and operations and I think sometimes people forget there's an actual person behind the name,'' Pendlebury said.
''I just want Daisy to get healthy and do what he loves doing, that's running out on the MCG and playing good football, just not playing good football against us.''
Pendlebury said he remained confident the Magpies would not lose ground and that they could win the flag, but while his predecessor Maxwell once boldly predicted a premiership, the new captain suggested the team would focus only on the opening game and not look too far ahead.
''In terms of moving back, I don't see us moving back. I expect to play finals again but that's a long way away. We've got to make sure we do the right stuff between here and round one to get prepared for Fremantle.
''We haven't spoken about what we want to get out [of] the season yet. We just want to get as fit as possible and we want to play finals, that's where it starts and obviously re-assess as the year goes. Personally, you want to play finals every year, you don't want to be going on holidays in September.
''Also you want to see continued improvement. Do I think we can win? Yeah, every year I've gone into a campaign I'm confident that we can win a premiership, but it's a long way away, if we think about that now you know you're going to lose sight of Fremantle round one.''
Pendlebury said the Pies had been seen to have faltered last year, in part because of their previous dominance, but had not handled pressure well.
I expect to play finals again but that's a long way away. We've got to make sure we do the right stuff between here and round one to get prepared for Fremantle.
Asked whether the Pies were off the pace of the top sides, he added: ''No doubt, because we finished eighth, so we were off the pace of those sides. I think the thing that's a little bit frustrating is we matched it with Sydney, I think we went through a patch there where we played a month of really good footy just out from the finals, matched it with those top sides but those top sides did it for longer than we could sustain and that's something we identified once again in that end-of-season review and we spoke about that to catch them we've got to put in a bit more work than previous.''
Pendlebury said the game plan would be similar, with ''a few small adjustments'', and that the pre-season under new fitness coach Bill Davoren, who eschewed Arizona and altitude training, had placed greater emphasis on endurance.
Pendlebury said of his appointment. ''Eddie told me then … it was awesome. I sort of didn't know what to say when the boys told me.
''Naturally that's where I wanted to get to. Once I got told this morning, it was a nice feeling.
''Maxy [Nick Maxwell] was here as well, he came and shook my hand and said well done and that he'll be here if I need any help and it's great to have him here, you know, because there's going to be things I haven't seen before or be asked to do that a captain does that Maxy knows about. It'd be great for me to able to bounce some stuff off Nick.''
Pendlebury, renowned for his meticulous preparation, said he would not expect teammates to prepare as he did.
''I think I've got a good understanding of what makes different guys tick,'' Pendlebury said.
He said he encouraged younger players to ''find something that you get confident in when you run out on match day … I'm not expecting guys to do what I do just because it works for me.''
Pendlebury, who is headed to the Super Bowl with Gary Ablett on a promotion this weekend, said there was no concern about divisions arising from Collingwood's famous rat pack - the group of which Dane Swan is perhaps the only survivor, given the exits of Alan Didak, Ben Johnson, free agent Thomas and the contentious trading of Heath Shaw.
''The boys themselves that are supposedly in the rat pack, they more just take the mickey out of it, they just ham it up to the media,'' he said.
''Just for some reason you guys are fascinated with them, they know it's just not true. For me, it's not a concern at all.''