Collingwood coach Craig McRae believes he “coached really poorly” in his side’s Round 22 loss to Sydney after “failing” to prepare them for the size of the SCG.
The loss was one of just two suffered by the Magpies since Round 10, and they return to the slightly smaller ground for Saturday evening’s preliminary final.
The SCG is five metres shorter and skinnier than the MCG, where Collingwood plays the majority of its matches.
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Most analysis has found ground size does not have an enormous factor on game style, and while the SCG is the shortest ground in frequent AFL use, it’s only one metre shorter than the Gabba at each end, 2.5 metres compared to the MCG and Marvel Stadium.
But according to McRae, failing to prepare for the SCG’s size played a part in his side’s demise roughly a month ago.
“We marked the ground today (at training), you probably saw that,” McRae said on Fox Footy’s AFL 360.
“I thought I coached really poorly (in Round 22). I believe in setting the players up for certain things to hopefully make them successful in what we’re doing, and I felt that I failed in that.
“I told the players today we’ll be better prepared for things like the shape of the ground so we can train on it and be prepared for that. Those little details are lessons learned along the way.”
Asked whether that was a “cop-out”, McRae responded: “The dimensions of the ground were different to what we’d been playing at and I didn’t reference it, I think that’s poor on my behalf.
“I should’ve known. You just move the ball slightly differently, and you’ll have to set up slightly differently.
“It’s nothing major, I’m just taking accountability for something I think I can do better.”
Geelong coach Chris Scott jokingly quipped: “They play 26 games at the MCG every year, it’s gotta be a surprise.”
While in recent years the Swans’ form has not been fantastic at the SCG, they have improved in 2022, winning nine of 11 games at the venue.
They kept five teams, including Collingwood, to fewer than 10 goals.
“It was hard for both teams to score, I think they kicked 77 points from memory, we kicked 59 (50) or something like that,” McRae said of the Round 22 game.
“I thought they defended the ground really well and their pressure was outstanding, so we know that’s coming.
“I just don’t think they get as much credit, maybe because they’re based in Sydney – they’re in really, really good form and they’ll be difficult to beat.”