Hmmm... This hasn't been the case for several years now!
IT was a statement that pointed to a challenger convinced it can now become the champion.
Collingwood's Heath Shaw, when quizzed as to his club's readiness against Geelong in the match of the year at the MCG tonight, did not resort to usual football cliches when analysing the Magpies' chances.
Collingwood, he said, has never been better placed in his time as a Magpie to defeat Geelong, a side with claims to being the greatest team of all given its extraordinary winning record since 2007.
"Probably not," he said.
"We've never been on the top of the ladder before when we've played them. With the list that we've got and the depth that we've got, there's a lot of players missing out this week that could easily come in. That's a good position to be in and the 22 that run out there will do the job."
It is that depth that has many convinced Collingwood can end a 20-year premiership drought. None other than Geelong's premiership captain Tom Harley opined that this year's Pies were reminiscent of the Cats of 2007.
Underlining Collingwood's strength is those stepping out in the blue and yellow of Williamstown, the Magpies VFL affiliate.
Ruckman Josh Fraser has been stranded on 199 league games since June while Paul Medhurst, an All-Australian who ran second in Collingwood's club championship in 2008, declared himself ready to play this week but remains in the reserves.
Debate has raged in Melbourne all week as to whether Geelong or Collingwood will hold a player or tactics in reserve for September given the likelihood the two sides will occupy the top two positions regardless of the result. Some experts have theorised that while a Geelong loss will have no detriment on the Cats come September, it is important for the younger Collingwood side to claim their scalp for self-belief come finals.
Shaw, who is returning from a fortnight out with injury, said that while Collingwood will leave nothing in the tank in front of a crowd expected to be close to the MCG's 100,000 capacity tonight, there will be further tinkering to the side over the next month.
"You go out there to win every week and we want to beat Geelong. We want to stay on top of the ladder and we want to get another four points," he said.
"But there's always going to be a little bit of finetuning you'll do before the finals come along."
While Shaw declared that Sharrod Wellingham, who is likely to run with Gary Ablett at some stage, will play after overcoming a knee injury suffered against Carlton, speculation abounds that Geelong will make a late change following an appearance by premiership player James Kelly on The Footy Show on Thursday night.
Kelly inadvertently inflamed a suggestion that James Podsiadly, whose emergence as a mature-aged rookie is among the stories of the season, would replace Paul Chapman. Chapman, Geelong's captain Cameron Ling and fellow premiership players Joel Corey and Josh Hunt were among those whose fitness was tested in a training session at Skilled Stadium yesterday, with the club's football manager Neil Balme coy as to whether there would be a late change.
"There is always a chance (of a change) but I am confirming nothing," Balme said.
DRINK TO MILBURN P43