AFTER a patchy period mid-year, Collingwood's players took a good hard look at themselves in an effort to realign themselves for a premiership tilt, says midfield general Dane Swan.
Specifically its loss to Gold Coast and scratchy win over Greater Western Sydney in round 17 and 18 were enough to get the lightbulbs flashing upstairs.
"Early in the year we weren't giving everything and our intensity wasn't up to scratch," Swan said in Launceston yesterday.
"We realised there wasn't long left (in the year) and we knew we didn't want to be sitting there on preliminary final day having beers around a barbecue thinking it could have been us, so we said `let's get ourselves into gear and have a real crack'."
Since those two games the club has gone 3-1, including Friday night's 62-point win over West Coast, to go from potentially missing the eight to setting up for a likely finishing position of fifth and an elimination final date.
The three-time Copeland Trophy winner said the club's attitude to September would not change, even though it would enter without the luxury of the double-chance for the first time since 2008.
"Whether you finish fifth or fourth, you're still going to go out with that same mindset," he said.
"But we will know there's no tomorrow as there's no second chance. No side has done it (won a premiership) from the bottom-half (of the eight) for a while, so why can't we be the first in a while?
"But there will be enormous pressure on us as we haven't bowed out in the first week of the finals for a long while."
Swan was at his best against the Eagles on Friday collecting 34 disposals, saying he felt he had got some consistency back in his game over the past 10 weeks.
But teammate Dayne Beams, who joined Swan in Launceston yesterday, was a late withdrawal with a back injury.
He said it wouldn't keep him out of this week's clash with North Melbourne.
It continued a stop-start year for last season's best and fairest winner, whose year did not start until round 16 due to a troublesome quad.
"I woke up in the morning with a sore back and this close to finals there's no point risking it, especially with the injuries that I've had this year," he said.
"So it was just taking the week off, and I'll be right to go next week."