Finding consistency in his game was a struggle for Will Hoskin-Elliott during his time at Greater Western Sydney.
At the Giants, the former first-round draftee often battled soft-tissue injuries and found himself in and out of the AFL side.
But in 2018, Hoskin-Elliott has emerged as one of the key pillars to Collingwood’s chances of a premiership that seemed so unlikely at the beginning of the season.
After playing all 17 games so far, the 24-year-old sits atop the club’s goalkicking charts, with 34, and Jordan De Goey next best, on 30.
What’s even more impressive is that Hoskin-Elliot has managed to kick at least one goal in 15 matches this season, including one in each of the club’s first 13 games.
Across the year, Hoskin-Elliott’s efforts have included five games of three goals or more, highlighting his ability to hit the scoreboard in droves.
There has never been any doubt about the former Western Jet’s ability to play the game at the highest level, the biggest questions raised have been surrounding his ability to perform at a consistent level.
But it now appears he has finally found that consistency, having played 39 games since crossing to the Pies during the 2016 trade period.
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Throughout much of the 2018 season, we have heard Collingwood players speak highly of coach Nathan Buckley’s ideology of allowing the team to play to their strengths – building his line-up on this idea.
This has seen Hoskin-Elliott form part of a mobile forward line, with Mason Cox acting as the key forward in the setup.
Under this system, we have seen the former Giant act as either a high half-forward linking up the play for his side or as a deep forward, often exposing opponents with his athletic ability.
It must be noted that Hoskin-Elliott has become accustomed to either of these positions due to the likes of De Goey and Rising Star favourite Jaidyn Stephenson also being able to rotate the position.
Within that trio, Buckley can shift the magnets depending on both the opposition and game situation.
All three have shown the ability to get off the chain in 2018, making them a nightmare for opposition coaches to plan for. Given the Pies looked primed for a September assault, the trio could will the Pies to the last day of September.
Of the Round 18 side that faced North Melbourne, Hoskin-Elliott had the most experience of any player named in the starting six forwards, haivng 90 games to his name.
Now in his fifth season, Hoskin-Elliott is the unsung leader of a young Collingwood forward line that has continued to exceed expectations.
The Pies are set to face finals-like games in the weeks to come, against Richmond, Sydney and Port Adelaide. With several young players in Collingwood’s side not having experienced September action, these upcoming matches could make or break their season.
Players like Hoskin-Elliott, who have performed well in the big games thus far this season, will be vital.
If Hoskin-Elliott continues his current trajectory, the future second-round selection Collingwood gave up for him in 2016 looks an absolute bargain.