Put aside your footy tribalism and just enjoy what the Pies are doing

Imagine for a moment that while you were capable of distinguishing one AFL team from another, you couldn't make out names, colours or guernseys.

It's probably just as well for 17 clubs that that's the stuff of fantasy. Because were it the case, why would you want to be anything other than a Collingwood supporter these days?

Of course, the mere sight of black-and-white stripes is enough to inspire loathing among rival club fans, the anti-Collingwood sentiment proudly instilled in generations of footy supporters now, many of whom if push came to shove wouldn't actually be able to articulate just why the Magpies were the subject of such disdain.

But even some of them are beginning to come around, grudgingly conceding a sneaky admiration. And if you simply love football free of cultural baggage, it's not really that surprising.

They're an amazing side, Craig McRae's Pies. They play fast, exciting, at times even breathtaking football. They never give up, whatever the circumstances. And their self-belief just can't be broken.

We spent much of last year marvelling at their phenomenal record in the close matches. But it wasn't much about luck then. And even less so now.

Sunday's one-point thriller against Adelaide, which made it three wins in a row by a combined 20 points, was the 16th time in Collingwood's past 28 games the margin had been 11 points or less. And of those 16, the Pies have won 13. If that was purely about fortune, you'd be loading up on lottery tickets.

But that self-belief, coupled with elite levels of fitness, is proving invaluable. It shone through on Anzac Day in overcoming a 28-point three-quarter time deficit against Essendon. And it was even more obvious in this follow-up win.

Remember that Adelaide, in front of a parochial home crowd, and with the shortest injury list in the competition, was taking on a Collingwood this week missing the ageless and steadying presence of Scott Pendlebury, besides much of its tall timber, and having conceded the Crows two days extra preparation.

Now consider that backdrop against final quarter statistics like Collingwood winning the clearance count 16-4, the inside 50s 15-5 and the contested ball by nine.

Logic mitigated against figures that lopsided in the Pies' favour that late in the contest. But why wouldn't you be spurred on to keep going when your record in the close ones is so phenomenal? And so Collingwood led the entire game for just 20 seconds. Crucially, however, it was the final 20 seconds.

Under McRae, Collingwood's catchcry has become "play the minutes". And it's not just a snappy line for the media.

The coach mentioned it after the Anzac Day win over the Dons. That was only a few minutes after Steele Sidebottom, the man who kicked the go-ahead point for the Pies on Sunday and was huge in the desperate final term despite having been in doubt to line-up through illness, had also mentioned it.

"The belief in the group just to keep executing our style is strong and the boys are very fit, and I think we're exploiting that," Sidebottom said, presciently, to ESPN last Tuesday.

Now watch the footage of the euphoric Pies leaving Adelaide Oval after Sunday's last-second steal and what can you hear players yelling at each other in triumph? Yep. "Play the minutes".

Collingwood is simply never beaten. And so powerful has the belief proved that it is clearly taking a toll on opponents.

Essendon was always still a winning chance in scoreboard terms on Anzac Day right up until the last minute or so, but really, even after Collingwood kicked just the first of the seven final-quarter goals it managed to reduce the gap to 22 points, who didn't think the Pies were at worst a 50-50 proposition?

Who didn't think Collingwood was still a very real winning proposition even after Chayce Jones kicked the first goal of the final term for Adelaide on Sunday to make it 22 points the difference?

And how many didn't think they'd probably somehow find a way to win again when John Noble's snap from 45 metres reduced the deficit to just one point with two minutes 52 seconds still left on the clock?

So overwhelming has become the tangible evidence of Collingwood's will to win that I strongly suspect it's having a "double whammy" effect of also messing with opponents' heads.

How many Essendon players on Anzac Day started entertaining thoughts of doom in that final term earlier than they might have against other opposition given the Pies' recent exploits? And ditto the Crows after wasting their earlier dominance with 3.10 to Collingwood's two solitary behinds midway through the second term?

All of which for Magpie fans is as good as football fandom gets. They know they're going to be entertained. They know their games are more often than not going to end up in a thrilling climax. And they know that seemingly whatever the situation, it ain't over till it's over.

Yeah, you're not supposed to like Collingwood if you don't barrack for them. But I'm pretty confident there's more than the odd rival team supporter out there at the moment secretly wishing they did.

You can read more of Rohan Connolly's work at FOOTYOLOGY.