Yet another Collingwood season unravels into a mess of injuries.
I don’t know what other word does this current crisis justice. Plethora? Quagmire? Sea?
It’s just a mess.
Injuries have been recurring at Collingwood since Nathan Buckley took over as coach in 2012.
They’re actually now expected – ingrained into the psyche of the everyday supporter. Everybody I know expects to come away from a game with at least one query, and for another to pop up during the week.
I go to games where my priority isn’t the result, but getting through it unscathed. The moment a player gets up gingerly, I see six weeks. If somebody limps off, it’s 12 weeks.
Collingwood addressed soft-tissue injuries five years ago at an AGM, but that’s been the only acknowledgement that they get lots of injuries.
Statistically, the Magpies have repeatedly figured highly in injury lists – but I can’t see that any genuine attempt has been made to investigate, identify, and remedy the issue.
Because that’s what you do with a problem, right?
But the problem keeps happening.
Maybe our protocols are injured.
I know my faith, optimism, hope, and blind support is.
Here are five reasons why my head is about to explode.
It keeps happening
I want to see solutions. Are we doing anything about it? Have we ever? Or do we just motor on, hoping, praying, gambling that it’ll work itself out?
It hurts player development
If you can’t pump games into players, you can’t develop them. If you can’t develop them, they fall by the wayside. That’s a waste of potential and resources.
Sure, not every player makes it in the AFL, and sometimes that’s entirely beyond the club’s control, but you want to give players every chance of making it, don’t you?
It wastes the best of club champions
Scott Pendlebury has valiantly gone out week after week after week over the last eight years, plying his trade to the best of his ability, even as the team has repeatedly failed around him.
Sure, some players are unlucky. They never get to play in a premiership, or they rarely get to play in finals. But Collingwood have wasted the best of Pendlebury, along with players such as Travis Cloke and Dane Swan because the team has kept falling down around them.
It ruins careers
Ben Reid was All-Australian in 2011. He looked set for a prosperous career. Jamie Elliott burst into the game in 2012. Nathan Freeman was drafted in 2013 at pick ten, and over the next two years never played a game. Matthew Scharenberg was pick six in the same draft, and in the six years since has played just 35 games.
How many players have gone nowhere? Or been diminished?
It hurts team development
Depth is an illusion. Teams can lose certain players and cover them. That occurred last year with Collingwood. Injuries created opportunities, and even forced on-field strategies to adapt.
But lose the wrong handful of players and it undermines team functionality. Some players are good at a specific thing, and while others can attempt to cover that contribution, they simply can’t do it as well. Anybody who just seems them as interchangeable drones doesn’t know anything about football.
Case in point: Taylor Adams, a tenacious, fearless, in-and-under midfielder. Collingwood have other mids, but nobody like this.
Last year in the grand final, the Pies would’ve killed for Darcy Moore or Lynden Dunn to play fullback, with no disrespect intended to Tyson Goldsack. You can’t replace these players. Lose enough of them and you have what’s happening now.
The team becomes a spluttering engine that produces no cohesion. Then that affects confidence. Then it becomes this chicken-and-the-egg situation – what came first? It doesn’t even matter, because the ongoing result is the same.
The team’s not going to develop when it’s delivering this output. Players are going to struggle. Let’s pour some more champagne down the drain while we all scratch our heads and talk about how we’re not playing our brand of football.
Some bodies cannot endure the rigours of AFL football. Unfortunately, we’re always seeing players falling by the wayside. Every club would lament the fortunes of one or two players who have all the talent but not the durability.
And clubs can have bad runs. After Collingwood’s failed premiership assaults in 2002 and ’03, the 2004 and ’05 seasons imploded. It felt like a combination of the club paying for the strenuous campaigns and a miasma of failure that mixed into a cocktail that inebriated Collingwood’s efforts, resulting in lots of injuries and dispirited efforts.
But once they got through those two years, they righted the ship and played finals under Mick Malthouse from 2006 to 2011.
But this has been going on from 2012 until today. Who knows when it’ll end? I don’t have the confidence to say 2020 will be any different – not when it’s happened every year.
Am I meant to continue to believe it’s just a bad run? Or that Collingwood just continues to be so unlucky that they’ve recruited a lot of players whose bodies aren’t up to it?
Logically, there has to be some common denominator. Is it the training regimen? Is it the training surface? Is it recovery? Is someone torturing a string of voodoo dolls representing the players? Is it a combination of a number of things? Is it something else altogether?
I don’t know.
But I’ve had it.
It’s frustrating, it’s discouraging, it’s deflating. And I’m watching the game in the stands, or from the comfort of my couch. How the hell would the players feel experiencing this time and time and time again?
The only thing more abhorrent than the injuries themselves is that nothing’s been done about it, and we’ve witnessed season after season after season derailed.
Is this an emotive rant? Yes it is, but with good reason.
Collingwood’s credo is “Only the best”.
Time to prove it.