Questions suddenly loom large over Collingwood, the most dominant team this season and deservedly the favourites for the AFL preliminary final against GWS.
How ready will Nick Daicos be in his first game back from the knee fracture the young gun suffered seven weeks ago?
Can the minor premiers’ midfield, missing Taylor Adams with a hamstring injury, match the in-form GWS onballers and their rich depth of talent?
What is hard-nut defender Brayden Maynard’s head space after his massive tribunal hearing last week?
Can he stop Giants captain Toby Greene? Can anyone?
And the perennial question before every preliminary final – has their 15-day break since the qualifying final win over Melbourne freshened up Collingwood, or left them rusty?
The Pies must make a fast start on Friday night at the MCG to ensure their vocal army of fans is a factor.
Just as Collingwood can be fuelled by the crowd roar, the Giants will ride their trademark “Orange Tsunami” onto the MCG.
Giants coach Adam Kingsley expects no surprises from Collingwood counterpart Craig McRae, who turns 50 on Friday.
Kingsley and McRae were assistant coaches together at Richmond before making their senior coaching debuts at their current clubs, with immediate effect.
McRae took Collingwood within one kick of the grand final last year and Kingsley’s Giants have defied all expectations this season.
The DNA that took Richmond to three premierships from 2017-20 runs through their teams.
“They’ll know how we play, we know how they play. So ultimately it will be the team that can execute that best come tomorrow night and finish their work,” Kingsley said.
“It will be little things that I think swing the game, like they do (in) most prelim finals.
“You can out-trick yourself at times. We will just back in what we do.”
The Giants should be at a disadvantage, coming off a six-day break after their semi-final win over Port Adelaide and being on the road since August 19.
But GWS are the undisputed masters of away wins this season and their outstanding social media posts through the finals series reflect the spirit of a team that knows it can.
Like the Baby Bombers of 1993 and the improbable Western Bulldogs premiership of 2016, GWS have everything going for them.
But GWS, like Collingwood, know all about the stakes at this time of year.
And Kingsley admits there is a “slight question” on them as well, over ruckman Kieren Briggs’ sore shoulder.
The Giants blew their big chance for a flag in the ’16 home preliminary final against the Bulldogs, then lost to the eventual premiers again the following year in front of a overwhelmingly pro-Richmond MCG crowd.
GWS withstood surge after surge from the Magpies in the last quarter to win the 2019 prelim, only for Richmond to humiliate them in their only grand final so far.
The Magpies are coming off last year’s SCG heartbreak when their last-quarter preliminary-final comeback against Sydney fell short by one lousy point.
Collingwood beat GWS by 65 points at the MCG and Nick Daicos racked up 41 disposals in round nine, but that was well before the Giants found their mojo and surged through the back half of the season.
“There’s obviously expectation on both teams to maximise the opportunity,” Kingsley said.
“We’re not fazed by going interstate, we’re not fazed by playing on the MCG.
“Clearly the last time we played the Pies at the MCG they belted us, so we try and learn our lessons and implement those lessons.”