Steele sideshow no excuse for beaten Pies

Magpies coach Nathan Buckley insisted his team were simply 'not good enough' against Essendon.
Magpies coach Nathan Buckley insisted his team were simply 'not good enough' against Essendon.

Nathan Buckley refused to make excuses after Collingwood's off-field week from hell was compounded by a 15-point defeat to fierce rivals Essendon on Friday night.

The Pies' week got off to a horror start when vice-captain Steele Sidebottom and Lynden Dunn were suspended for breaches of AFL coronavirus protocols.

And it got worse when they wasted a three-goal head start against the Bombers at the MCG and were held goalless for two and a half quarters before falling short in a final-quarter comeback.

But Magpies coach Buckley said the external focus on Sidebottom, in particular, and the events that saw the All-Australian midfielder cop a four-week ban had no effect on the team's preparation or performance.

"There's a fair bit happening in the environment and we've been pretty good at drawing the line between what happens during the week and what happens off-field and then what we do on-field," Magpies coach Buckley said.

"So there's no excuses from our behalf in regards to that, we just weren't good enough tonight."

Sidebottom was sorely missed against Essendon, as was key defender Jeremy Howe, who suffered a serious knee injury a week earlier.

The Magpies were well beaten at stoppages and Buckley addressed concerns over his side's scoring woes after they bookended the goal drought with flurries of majors in the first and final quarters.

"That's nearly consistent with what we're seeing across the comp but it's cold comfort though because we're just not playing as consistently as we'd like to play," Buckley said.

"The opposition brought more energy than we did, they out-tackled us, they out-worked us inside and that generally gave their backs a little bit more time and put our backs under a little bit more pressure.

"We lost the arm wrestle for the majority of the match and we were on the back foot."

Tall forward Mason Cox was rarely sighted on the night and finished the match as the only player who didn't manage a single kick.

"He was one of a few that really struggled to have a contribution tonight, so he's not on his own," Buckley said.

"Big fellas can still be effective in slippery conditions because they provide an aerial target and they provide a beacon, and even though Coxy didn't get a lot of it, he was pretty important for us in that last quarter as a target forward of the ball.

"We put him a bit longer but no, it wasn't a good one."

Australian Associated Press