Seeing the devastation of his former GWS teammates underscored for Taylor Adams how much Collingwood have achieved this year.
Last week's semi-final win over the Giants was a bittersweet experience for Adams, who spent his first two seasons as an inaugural player at the AFL expansion club before seeking a trade back to his home state in 2013.
Adams' jubilation at the victory was tempered by the obvious emotion of good friends such as Stephen Coniglio as the Giants - who lost preliminary finals in 2016 and 2017 - fell short in September for the third straight season.
"It was tough after the game," Adams said.
"Seeing some of my best mates really upset, it was a bit of a bittersweet feeling after the game.
"I've learned over the last month how hard it is to get to where we are. To see them lose two prelims the last couple of years ... I really hurt for them."
Trialled in the backline earlier this season without much success, Adams has since returned to more familiar territory in a formidable engine room that also includes Scott Pendlebury, Adam Treloar and Steele Sidebottom.
Adams' first finals series took seven seasons and well over 100 games to arrive but the 24-year-old says it has been worth the wait.
"It's probably heightened my expectations of what finals actually are and how much they mean," he said.
"Every contest that you're involved in, everything is so important. All games are going to be a real contested battle of footy and the pressure's up, the crowds are enormous, the feeling throughout the week is incredible."
Few expected the Magpies to perform so well this season given coach Nathan Buckley was under pressure to keep his job 12 months earlier.
The Pies are underdogs for Friday night's preliminary final against Richmond but Adams says it won't be enough to have simply exceeded expectations.
"I'm under no illusions as to what we've achieved so far this year but our mentality this whole finals series has been 'we're not done yet'," he said.
"We've got eight more quarters of footy to get through before we reach our final goal."
Australian Associated Press