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Prelim-bound Magpies prepare to welcome back Daicos

Morgan Hancock/AAP PHOTOS

Collingwood coach Craig McRae has admitted Nick Daicos would have been underdone if the young superstar had been forced to return for a semi-final.

But the Magpies don't have to rush back the Brownlow Medal contender after winning through to the preliminary final by beating Melbourne and earning a week off.

Collingwood lost the inside-50 count by a staggering 32 (69-37) and had to contend with a fierce Melbourne fightback in the last quarter to prevail in Thursday night's qualifying final by seven points - 9.6 (60) to 7.11 (53).

Daicos has been sidelined since hurting his knee in an upset loss to Hawthorn in round 21 but the 20-year-old has stepped up his training this week.

Collingwood will be at full strength, after the successful return of captain Darcy Moore against Melbourne, for a preliminary final at the MCG, against Brisbane, Port Adelaide, GWS or St Kilda.

"It gives Nick an extra week to try and prepare; he probably would have come in a bit short next week," McRae said.

"Probably would have played, he's progressing really well, but now he gets another week of training and loading and whatever that looks like.

"He said it was the worst two hours of his life watching the game.

"But he's a great player. So any time you can welcome back your best saw what happened we bring Darcy Moore and all of a sudden someone else falls in line.

"He's certainly going to be a valuable player when he comes back in a couple of weeks."

Such is Collingwood's depth, McRae made the tough call to drop John Noble for the clash with the Demons after the running defender played in the Magpies' 83 previous games.

"It's hard, good players are going out of the team," McRae said.

"He's significant getting us to this moment, 'Nobes'.

"Tough decisions need to be made, it comes with a heavy heart."

Collingwood lost two thrillers (to eventual grand finalists Geelong and Sydney) during last year's finals series to exit at the preliminary final stage but used that experience to overcome the wasteful Demons.

"I spoke before the game about being being grateful for what we have. We're very lucky to be to in this position, 10 teams would love to be in our position still playing," McRae said.