After their successful off-season fitness trip to Utah in the US, Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley says the Magpies have the talent to be a contender again in 2013 but improvement was needed across the board.
"We have an understanding that we have a high level of talent compared to some sides, but I think that's overstated in some ways," Buckley said on the AFL website.
"A lot of sides have talent. So it then comes down to what wins games of footy. Yes, talent does, but you've got to be prepared to work harder for longer than your opponent."
And one of those opponents is angry 2012 runners-up Hawthorn. Collingwood lost only six matches last season, but three of them were to Hawthorn.
Buckley knows the Hawks and premiers Sydney will be the benchmarks again.
He was pleased with reports out of the 16-day Utah trip, which showed they were indeed trying, as Buckley wants, to work harder than their opponents.
And teammates say Dane Swan, whose attitude and behaviour is often questioned, has attacked this pre-season with even more vigour than normal.
The club says Harry O'Brien is also setting himself for a big season as he is now 26 and about to enter the peak of his career.
Recruit from West Coast Quinten Lynch seems to be fitting in well. Fellow West Australian Jackson Ramsay has been living with Nathan Brown as he settles into Melbourne and learning about how Brown prepares to train and play.
The Magpies still consider themselves premiership contenders and believe they have recruited well, introducing 12 new players via free agency, the AFL draft and the rookie draft as they regenerate the list.