Terry Mallinder: flag talk was pie in sky stuff

THERE was some banter during the pre-season that Collingwood supporters had already begun queuing up for grand final tickets.

It followed the Magpies' thumping of reigning premier Hawthorn in the opening game of the NAB Challenge.

After a season in which their side had finished outside the top eight for the first time in almost a decade, fans of the black and white were daring to dream.

Of course, the grey area was the fact that the Hawks were missing 15 premiership players from their line-up, and it was only February.

We're just two rounds into the season proper, but the smokescreen of the pre-season competition has gone and we're seeing some clarity in where teams sit.

For some, hopes have nosedived. For others, they've skyrocketed.

Collingwood's win over Brisbane away at the Gabba last week only camouflaged the Magpies' problems. The loss at home to Adelaide didn't.

They fielded 11 players who had played less than 50 games as Nathan Buckley looks to cover the loss over the last couple of years of 2010 premiership stars Nick Maxwell, Heretier Lumumba and Heath Shaw from defence, Dayne Beams, Dale Thomas and Luke Ball from midfield and Chris Dawes from attack.

Then there's Brent Macaffer, Steele Sidebottom, Ben Reid and star recruit Levi Greenwood, who are facing extended periods on the sidelines, with injury.

But apart from personnel, there's also an intensity issue for the Magpies.

Collingwood did well to only finish 27 points down but the damage was done in the first three quarters, a relentless Adelaide up 81-25.

"They definitely edged us for want to go and get that footy and you only need to be off by half a step and that's enough," Buckley said.

Most will be reanalysing the Crows' prospects too after their demolition jobs on North Melbourne and now Collingwood.

There's usually one side that jumps up from the pack and it could be Adelaide under the new leadership of coach Phil Walsh and captain Taylor Walker.

Right now they are the pride of South Australia.

Their cross-town rival, Port Adelaide, will now have to strive to become the first team since the Kangaroos in 1999 to lose its opening two games and still claim the flag.

But ironically, the Power will now have to beat North at Etihad Stadium next Saturday just to open its account and not make it three losses in a row after falling to Fremantle and Sydney.

The Power kicked its lowest score (44) under Ken Hinkley on Saturday night, with the Swans making a clear statement to the rest of the competition with their defensive pressure.

Geelong is also 0-2 - and, remarkably, on the bottom of the ladder after being crushed by Hawthorn and Fremantle.

But the Cats should be able to lick their substantial wounds when they host Gold Coast.

The rising Suns have been the most disappointing of the lot following two woeful efforts against the two bottom teams of 2014, Melbourne and St Kilda.

The Saints, Bulldogs and Giants are all playing with the spirit the Suns should possess, but seriously lack.

Yes, it's only round two, but ...