Daniel Wells is a genuine game-changer – when he’s up and running he has the ability to affect a team’s performance like few players in the competition. However, to Nathan Buckley’s discontent, being ‘up and running’ for Wells is often a rarity.
Since bursting onto the seen in 2003 as a number two draft pick, Wells has shown flashes of brilliance – being able to evade tackling pressure and calmly deliver the ball to teammates by either hand or foot.
Wells at his best has been likened to a Rolls Royce. He moves across the ground as smoothly as any player in the competition and finds time no one else can.
Despite being one of the game’s premier talents, during his tenure at North Melbourne, injuries assured that these flashes never translated into consistency. In the age bracket of 24-30, where most players hit their peak, Wells was only able to play an average of 14 games per season.
When Wells was on the field, North were a noticeably better team, as evidenced when Wells returned to help guide the Kangaroos to a preliminary final in 2014, despite only playing ten home-and-away games.
In the first final, against Essendon, Wells was North’s best player, gathering 28 disposals. He followed that up the next week with 22 disposals in the victory over Geelong.
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After appearing in 19 games for the Roos last season, his best return since 2013, it was a no brainer that a team such as Collingwood would offer him a substantial paycheque to boost their finals chances.
Wells was seen as a complement to the hard-nosed midfield brigade of Adam Trelor, Scott Pendlebury and Taylor Adams, but early on it appeared Collingwood’s plan had failed. Wells suffered a hamstring injury in his first training session, sidelining him for the remainder of the preseason.
On Anzac Day, Buckley inserted an underdone Wells into a struggling Pies outfit, where he kicked two crucial goals to go along with 24 disposals in a losing performance – a performance that he would only build on.
Since then, in games that Wells has appeared in the Pies have six wins, one draw and one narrow loss.
His best game to date was in the draw against the top-of-the-table Adelaide Crows, collecting 34 disposals at 82 per cent efficiency, as well as six inside 50s and three goals.
Collingwood look unlikely to make finals, sitting two games out with four rounds remaining, however if Wells can continue his stellar form then they can finish the season on a positive note.
But, as seen throughout his career, this is no certainty.
There isn’t a more aesthetically pleasing sight than Daniel Wells gliding down the middle of the MCG and hitting a forward on the chest. For Collingwood’s sake, let’s hope we see more of this in the next four games.