Rebuilt Reid leads Magpies’ AFL comebacks
Collingwood hope rebuilt running and kicking actions end Ben Reid’s history of quad injuries as the All Australian leads a trio of returning Magpies backmen.
Fellow premiership defenders Heath Shaw and Alan Toovey, who have both recovered from calf injuries, will also play in Saturday’s table-topping MCG clash with West Coast.
The three all impressed in Wednesday’s main training session and coach Nathan Buckley afterwards confirmed they were ready to face the Eagles.
He said their value to the team outweighed any concerns about recalling three players from soft tissue injuries simultaneously.
“It helps bolster our defence and clearly they’re three very important players to us,” Buckley said.
“When you’ve got players of that talent and competitiveness, you know they’re going to have an impact. We’re more comfortable bringing three fresh players in of that calibre.
“Especially against a very good West Coast offence – they’re ready to go and ready to have an impact.”
Reid last played more than a month ago and Buckley said the backman used what was his second stint this season sidelined by a quad injury to iron out what the coach termed a mechanical weakness.
The fullback’s running gait and kicking action were both refined.
His return gives the Magpies the chance to field tall defensive trio Reid, Nathan Brown and Chris Tarrant together for the first time.
While the Magpies’ injury problems in defence have eased, Buckley admitted the issue of countering West Coast’s ruck pairing Nic Naitanui and Dean Cox meant there were still selection headaches.
Collingwood are contemplating including Cameron Wood to support Darren Jolly in the ruck, something they have done just once previously this season.
Otherwise they have used forward Chris Dawes as a makeshift second ruckman.
Buckley said regardless of which way they went, fully countering Naitanui’s extreme athleticism was near impossible.
“Every coach that comes up against West Coast would be sitting in a press conference such as this scratching their head, wondering how they can nullify the influence,” Buckley said.
“I don’t think you can nullify it totally but we’ll believe in a team focus, making sure our structure on the ground is right and we get a really good contest in the air.”
Combating the Eagles’ forward press is another challenge, with Buckley saying West Coast kept the ball locked up their end better than any other club.
He said that made the midfield contests crucial, but also put the pressure on Collingwood’s defence to make good decisions with the ball.
The top-placed Eagles have not beaten Collingwood since 2007 and not at the MCG since 1995, but pushed them hard in an MCG qualifying final last season.© AAP 2013
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