"Just beat them in contested ball and you'll win the game of footy."
It's a simple message for opposition coaches, but a revealing one nevertheless. The instructive words came from Collingwood captain Scott Pendlebury in the wake of his side's fourth defeat in five rounds, a 64-point thumping at the hands of Essendon on Sunday at the MCG.
"It all starts from winning the contested ball," Pendlebury told the AFL website.
"If you can get your hands on it more than they can, you're giving your forwards a chance and at the moment we're not really giving our forwards a chance. We're also leaving our defenders pretty vulnerable with all the ball that's being put their way."
The Magpies have lost the contested possession count in all four of their defeats during their turbulent stretch, beaten comprehensively by Essendon 139-119 in the statistic on Sunday. Three weeks earlier against Hawthorn the count was even more lopsided, with the Hawks winning the contested ball tally 145-117 on their way to a 29-point victory.
It is a recent trend for the Magpies. Indeed for the season they are incredibly dead level in terms of contested possessions won and conceded, with 2192 in both counts.
Having fallen to eighth position on the ladder, Collingwood is now just percentage clear of ninth-placed Gold Coast, with Adelaide a further game back in tenth.
The Magpie skipper remained optimistic, but suggested that a September berth could only be achieved if his side rolled up its sleeves.
"I'll be disappointed if we don't play finals, but at the moment it can go one of two ways. We can crack it and say it's too hard or we can dig our heels in and get ready for a fight because we're in the eight and someone's got to take that spot off us. We're not going to give it up."
He wasn't however mincing his words when it came to making an appraisal of Collingwood's Sunday afternoon showing.
"Today was embarrassing."