2017 AFL preview series: Collingwood Magpies – 11th

Cameron Rose Columnist

By Cameron Rose, Cameron Rose is a Roar Expert


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    When Nathan Buckley took over as coach of Collingwood for 2012, they were coming off a 20-win home-and-away season, and an appearance in a grand final they were leading at halftime. It was like moving out of home for the first time, straight into a Toorak mansion (name on the mortgage: Edward McGuire).

    In the ensuing years, the Magpies have produced ever-diminishing returns – 16 wins and a preliminary final loss, 14 wins and bundled out of a home elimination final they were favoured to win against an interstate opponent, 11 wins, ten wins, and nine wins. Hmm.

    Five players remain at Collingwood from the 2011 grand final side, while four others are plying their trade elsewhere. Change is swift and brutal in the AFL industry. If you stand still, you go backwards.

    Unfortunately for Buckley, he made changes, and still went down. He’s been playing snakes, not ladders.

    Can Buckley coach? It’s one of the biggest questions in the game.

    Some will say he can’t, because he doesn’t empathise with players that don’t bleed football, and struggles to get his team playing with an identifiable style. Others have more faith, and claim he hasn’t been able to get an injury-free crack through an entire season.

    Either way, time is running out.

    Collingwood Magpies’ best 22

    B Tom Langdon Lynden Dunn Brayden Maynard
    HB Taylor Adams Ben Reid Jeremy Howe
    C Daniel Wells Adam Treloar Steele Sidebottom
    HF Jordan De Goey Darcy Moore Chris Mayne
    F Alex Fasolo Jesse White Jamie Elliott
    Foll Brodie Grundy Scott Pendlebury Jack Crisp
    Int Josh Smith Levi Greenwood Travis Varcoe Matthew Scharenberg

    Emergencies: James Aish, Jackson Ramsay, Lachie Keefe

    The first thing that stands out at Collingwood is the lack of depth in their talls. Brodie Grundy is the lone ruckman on the senior list, and none of the key position players are what you’d call powerful.

    With Travis Cloke and Jarrod Witts unceremoniously discarded, Darcy Moore will shoulder the forward burden at the tender age of 21. We know he’s a talent, but there is much refinement of his raw materials still to be done.

    Jesse White is a decent player but one of the most maligned in the industry. Chris Mayne will provide third tall forward support, but things are grim when he’s being triumphed as a recruit. Mason Cox was a story last year, but the Pies would like to be good enough to deny him a game. If he can improve enough to command a regular spot, then that’s also a win.

    Ben Reid is a quality reader of the play and distributor but prefers to be third man-up than stand the big guns. We must also take into account his injury history. Carlton is more chance of winning the flag than he is of playing 22 games.

    Lynden Dunn was overtaken at Melbourne last year, but he does have attributes, albeit as an undersized full-back. Lachlan Keefe hasn’t played in two years and will be relied upon as a bits-and-pieces tall.

    It’s not a collection to be feared. What it means is Buckley’s running game had better be razor sharp. Thankfully, for his sake, he has the personnel to deliver on that.

    Scott Pendlebury is the midfield maestro, and would command a spot in the AFL team of the century if we were putting one together. We know everything about him by now – the effortless glide across the turf, the stopping of time once he takes possession, the gentle caress of foot or hand on leather. If I was a Simpsons fan, or my name was Ryan Buckland, I’d insert a gif of Homer drooling right here.

    Collingwoods Scott Pendlebury.

    Adam Treloar took his game to all new heights last year. His stats were up 10-20 per cent across the board, and his impact on matches was greater still. He came at a hefty price to the Pies, but looks well on track to pay it back.

    Steele Sidebottom and Daniel Wells will fight for third banana, and any situation that has either of these as your fourth best midfielder is a good one to be in. Wells has to stay fit, obviously, and the length of his contract was zany, but these two running the wings will hurt teams.

    Jack Crisp is the grunt support, Josh Smith will run free on the outside if he can keep his spot, Jordan De Goey will be pushing for more midfield responsibility from his half-forward position, and Taylor Adams will always find the ball running through there as well.

    Grundy also has an impact once the ball hits the ground, both in the contest, but also pushing forward, running back, or linking through the middle.

    In summary, the Pies have great flexibility and depth through their mids, and no shortage of quality either. The surplus of players means they should be strong through the flanks too.

    The forward-line will look equal parts dangerous or non-threatening, depending on how the dynamic works across the season. The two keys to this are Alex Fasolo and Jamie Elliott.

    Fasolo isn’t what you’d call a two-way player. In fact, his eyes never leave the goals, regardless of where he is on the ground or who has possession. Watch him at quarter- and three-quarter-time. His back will be to the huddle, staring at the goals, imagining himself putting one through from 55 on the boundary. He can do it too.

    This is not a negative either, as playmakers who can win you games need to be nurtured and encouraged. Fasolo is one of those. Elliott is another. After missing all of last year with back troubles, he will be hungry to have an impact.

    As capable on the ground as he is in the air or on the lead, it is arguable that only Eddie Betts is ahead of Elliott as a multi-tooled small forward, if his body allows him to get a proper crack at it.

    Chris Mayne will go down as one of the worst four-year signings in the history of football, if not in the history of sport. Will Hoskin-Elliott could bear more fruit than Mayne if he can stay fit, and would add to the unpredictability of the forward-line.

    Down back, supporting Reid and Dunn will be Jeremy Howe, who is coming off his most consistent season. Tom Langdon, if fit, and Brayden Maynard will likely have first crack in the pockets. Both are cool heads and capable of being 200 game players.

    Jackson Ramsay will be trying to force his way into those positions, and looks like he could be a player. James Aish played some better football in the second half of last year, and can have an impact. Collingwood does have some depth in these areas, which they’ll need to trade out to find some talls.

    The problem with the Pies is they do have a host of injury-prone players, four of whom (Wells, Reid, Fasolo and Elliott) offer things that are not easily replaced. Matthew Scharenberg, Tim Broomhead and Hoskin-Elliott are three others of whom much is expected, and have shown they can belong at the level if their bodies hold up.

    Collingwood have put together an eclectic mix of players, weak in some areas, strong in others, and with physical vulnerability everywhere you look. There are 30 players that could well consider themselves best 22, and putting together their best side is not an easy one, for good reasons.

    If it all comes together, then top four is not beyond the realms of possibility. A team from outside the eight the previous season usually jumps in there. But if Buckley can’t get his players on the park, or they can’t deliver on what he wants, then we could witness his sixth consecutive season of depreciation.

    Your guess is as good as mine.

    Predicted ladder spread: seventh-12th

    Predicted finish: 11th

    Best and fairest: Scott Pendlebury

    Leading goalkicker: Jamie Elliott

    All-Australian potential: Jamie Elliott, Brodie Grundy, Scott Pendlebury, Steele Sidebottom, Adam Treloar

    Rising Star candidates: Callum Brown, Josh Daicos

    Cam Rose’s AFL preview series ladder

    11th – Collingwood
    12th – Gold Coast
    13th – Port Adelaide
    14th – Fremantle
    15th – Essendon
    16th – North Melbourne
    17th – Carlton
    18th – Brisbane

    Cameron Rose
    Cameron Rose

    Cameron Rose is a born and bred Melbournian, raised on a regime of AFL, cricket and horse racing. He likes people who agree with him but loves those that don't, for there's nothing better than a roaring debate. He tweets from @camtherose.

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    The Crowd Says (34)

    • March 8th 2017 @ 8:55am
      Pumping Dougie said | March 8th 2017 @ 8:55am | ! Report

      Great analysis Cam.

      Bit harsh on Mayne though … Wells will be much worse, value-for-money wise.

      A robot coach, poor backline and forwards who don’t defend, mean Collingwood are in for another lean year I think.

      • Columnist

        March 8th 2017 @ 9:56am
        Cameron Rose said | March 8th 2017 @ 9:56am | ! Report

        Thanks PD.

        At least Wells will influence matches when he plays, but yes, his deal was a head-scratcher. They just needed class so badly I suppose. Forward pressure too, hence Mayne.

    • March 8th 2017 @ 8:59am
      Franky said | March 8th 2017 @ 8:59am | ! Report

      If a 4 year deal for Chris Mayne is the worst deal in history, a 3 year deal for a 32 year old, injury prone Daniels Wells won’t be far behind.

      They’ve also got a tough start to the season. There aren’t many certainties in the AFL at this time of year, but you can be sure that the footy media will be paying very close attention to Buckley, Hardwick and Hinkley. By round 3, the Hyena’s will have identified which of them is the weakest, and they will keep hounding them until they get their man.

      • March 8th 2017 @ 9:50am
        Brian said | March 8th 2017 @ 9:50am | ! Report

        The Mayne and Wells deals are clear indications Buckley knows its now or never. If they go backwards in 2017 he won’t be around in 2018

      • Columnist

        March 8th 2017 @ 9:57am
        Cameron Rose said | March 8th 2017 @ 9:57am | ! Report

        It’s a fair bet Franky. Richmond have a reasonably friendly start, so they will be onto Hardwick like white on rice if he can’t beat Carlton and then stay ahead of the ledger for the first six weeks or so.

    • March 8th 2017 @ 9:02am
      peter chrisp said | March 8th 2017 @ 9:02am | ! Report

      Cam have to agree on all fronts an excellent summary of Pies expectations, i am hoping throughout the season some of the players you have mentioned above are injury free and that most of them can get at least 20 games into the season.
      In regards to a ladder position will there be improvement and more games won than last years poor effort? Will we surprise a few sides or fall down on our own weight of expectations i was actually going to use another word, i would imagine I hate Pies and many non supporters would definitely want to see Pies fail and rightly so. Can we put the “runs” on the board this year, thanks Cam for your perfect summary.

      • Columnist

        March 8th 2017 @ 10:02am
        Cameron Rose said | March 8th 2017 @ 10:02am | ! Report

        Thanks for the kind words Peter.

        I agree, I just want to see all of these players fit and healthy, so we can see what Buckley thinks his best team is, and what sort of results he can get with them.

        • March 8th 2017 @ 11:44am
          Free 2 Fly said | March 8th 2017 @ 11:44am | ! Report

          To be fair Cam, no team is ever fully fit and healthy. Most of the top 8 last year had injury issues and the Bulldogs at times were ravaged.

          • Columnist

            March 8th 2017 @ 12:02pm
            Cameron Rose said | March 8th 2017 @ 12:02pm | ! Report

            Yes, but Collingwood appear to have been impacted more than most. When I say fit and healthy, it would be interesting to see them with three or four on the injury list, instead of 13 or 14.

            • March 8th 2017 @ 2:11pm
              Kane said | March 8th 2017 @ 2:11pm | ! Report

              This is obviously a fitness and conditioning problem but the club and the media always put it down to bad luck. It’s been happening for a few years now so it obviously has nothing to do with luck.

              • March 8th 2017 @ 6:10pm
                Pumping Dougie said | March 8th 2017 @ 6:10pm | ! Report

                Collingwood had great luck or good management with injuries during its run to the 2010 flag. Wasn’t their successful fitness guy (Buttifant?) another casualty of Buckley’s reign?

              • March 9th 2017 @ 7:22am
                Kane said | March 9th 2017 @ 7:22am | ! Report

                I reckon he was PD, it seems Buckley wanted everything that Malthouse put in place gone. He seems to be falling on his own sword now.

    • March 8th 2017 @ 9:19am
      Tony said | March 8th 2017 @ 9:19am | ! Report

      Hey Cameron you predict 11th place finish after saying they are capable of a top four finish, that is a mighty big spread of places. With the draw the Pies have we will probably know by the end of April which prediction is going to be right. Nice article keep up the good work.

      • Columnist

        March 8th 2017 @ 10:04am
        Cameron Rose said | March 8th 2017 @ 10:04am | ! Report

        Thanks Tony. It’s that kind of year, isn’t it. Much like last year. A heap of sides could finish top six or bottom six. Some teams will have confidence and some will lose it, and that will define their year.

    • March 8th 2017 @ 9:37am
      Tom m said | March 8th 2017 @ 9:37am | ! Report

      Ben Reid, Jamie Elliot and Brodie Grundy. If the pies want to play finals all 3 will have to play the majority of the season and for Reid and Elliot it seems unlikely. Wells has the ability to win games off his own boot if he can get on the park and is the perfect compliment to the pies established midfield, but the likely hood of him playing 10+ games seems low this year let alone in 3 years time…

      • Columnist

        March 8th 2017 @ 10:06am
        Cameron Rose said | March 8th 2017 @ 10:06am | ! Report

        All good points Tom, and I agree with you. This is the problem when a good 20% of the list is severely injury-prone. There’s only so many of them you can carry.

    • March 8th 2017 @ 9:52am
      Brian said | March 8th 2017 @ 9:52am | ! Report

      I’d have both Aish and Ramsay in the 22 with Dunn confined to the VFL

      • Columnist

        March 8th 2017 @ 10:07am
        Cameron Rose said | March 8th 2017 @ 10:07am | ! Report

        I think Dunn was recruited to play, and Aish and Ramsay aren’t fighting for his spot anyway. But they could both easily be in there. Collingwood’s is the toughest 22 I’ve had to do so far.

      • Roar Rookie

        March 8th 2017 @ 5:03pm
        Sam Bunn said | March 8th 2017 @ 5:03pm | ! Report

        Agree with Ramsay, Sinclair out means someone has to take the opposition’s dangerous small forward and Ramsay can fill that role well, also like his rebound game. Dunn will play out of necessity however, key stocks very limited