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McCarthy tragedy unites the Magpies
McCarthy celebrates a 2008 elimination final win with Dale Thomas and Harry O'Brien. Picture: AFL Media.

Collingwood players are confronting their grief over the death of former teammate John McCarthy and have vowed to show his spirit against West Coast in Saturday night's semifinal at the MCG.

A measured Scott Pendlebury said yesterday that the Magpies would not dodge the emotion surrounding the loss of their friend, who died in what appeared to be a freak accident in Las Vegas at the weekend.

McCarthy had transferred to Port Adelaide at the end of 2011.

Pendlebury said the "predictable" weekly training program under coach Nathan Buckley had limited the chances of an emotional distraction ahead of the match.

"It certainly puts football into perspective," Pendlebury said.

"All the boys have found out and are grieving in their own way and it's something we're not going to get over by the weekend's game. But at the same time, we've got an opportunity to play in a way that J-Mac would have been happy with and the way that he played his football ... hard-working and hard at the footy. I'm sure a lot of the boys will be trying to play that way for him."

Pendlebury said the players had found strength in unity at a time of stress.

"Just being able to get together and talk about it ... at times like this you never want to be by yourself and thinking about it," he said.

"When we're together you can all talk and look out for each other."

Key on-ballers Dayne Beams and Dale Thomas were notable absentees from the training session yesterday.

They were put through a series of light run-throughs before leaving early. Beams is understood to have been seen heading to hospital for scans on Monday, while Thomas has been plagued by an ankle problem in the latter part of the season.

Captain Nick Maxwell will be missing from defence through suspension, but Tyson Goldsack looks certain to return from injury.

But he trained as a forward yesterday, suggesting there could be a further reshuffle.

Pendlebury said the Magpies had been disappointed at getting "smashed" at contested football and clearances when they lost by 49 points to West Coast at Patersons Stadium in the penultimate round of the home-and-away season.

He was confident ruckman Darren Jolly, who did not play in that match, would help redress the balance.

He also hinted that having had an extra two days to recover from last Friday night's qualifying final loss to Hawthorn, they would be desperate to test the Eagles early in the match.

"We're looking forward to getting our hands dirty," Pendlebury said.

"It's a good challenge for us and obviously 48 hours extra recovery for us, so we want to make sure the game is nice and hot as early as possible and put the pressure on them.

"Finals makes it a new ball game as well, there's a lot more pressure on in finals footy.

"We're looking forward to getting stuck into them and it should be a good match.

"I haven't thought about going out in straight sets because it's not something that I want to do.

"Our boys have played in a lot of finals games and we respond really well in that sort of atmosphere."

Pendlebury also suggested West Coast defenders would be having "sleepless nights" because of the return to form of key forward Travis Cloke.