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The Adam Treloar mystery

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Roar Guru
11th January, 2021
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2804 Reads

While we might be three months removed from the 2020 trade period, Collingwood’s bewildering efforts still occupy my mind. In pondering them, what’s intrigued me is how Collingwood’s view of Adam Treloar continued to evolve (or devolve).

Collingwood famously wooed Treloar to the club throughout 2015. Treloar spurned Richmond, and felt Collingwood had a “better list” that was closer to a premiership.

During this time, Collingwood were in something of a transitional period. A number of the 2010 premiership squad had either retired or been traded out. The club was trying to rebuild. In likelihood, it was an attempt to rebuild on the run while they retained something of an experienced framework.

Unfortunately, from 2012 – 2014 Collingwood’s drafting misfired, incorporating Brodie Grundy (18), Ben Kennedy (19), Tim Broomhead (20), Jackson Ramsey (38), Marley Williams (rookie promotion), Kylie Martin (rookie), Sam Dwyer (rookie/later promoted), Adam Oxley (rookie/later promoted), Jack Frost (rookie), Ben Hudson (rookie), Peter Yagmoor (rookie), Ben Richmond (alternate rookie), Matthew Scharenberg (6), Nathan Freeman (10), Tom Langdon (65), Jonathan Marsh (77), Corey Gault (rookie), Jordan de Goey (5), Darcy Moore (9), Brayden Maynard (30), Matthew Goodyear (48), Michael Manteit (rookie), Brendan Abbott (rookie), Tony Armstrong (rookie), and Mason Cox (rookie).

That’s 25 draftees for six hits – about one in four. The 2014 draft buoys those stats. Judging purely on 2012-2013, it was just two hits from 17 picks; that’s one hit for every eight picks – low by anybody’s considerations.

Going into 2015, Collingwood had to be at least be wary that their list rejuvenation was spluttering, and given the recurring injuries to the likes of Broomhead, and top ten picks in Scharenberg, and Freeman, that any short-term turnaround had now become unlikely.

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Compounding the rejuvenation, only a handful of players from the premiership squad had improved. Scott Pendlebury became elite. Steele Sidebottom and Dayne Beams became very good, although Beams crossed to Brisbane at the close of 2015. Ben Reid never looked as good as his 2011 All Australian season, and played only four games in 2015.

Scott Pendlebury of the Magpies celebrates a win

Scott Pendlebury (Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Tyson Goldsack remained a hardy warrior, but was often being played as a defensive forward – hardly his best position. Travis Cloke – now being anchored to goal – was a shadow of the power-forward who monstered the competition in between 2010 and 2011.

At this point, the club should’ve reassessed where they stood. Any short-term expectations to win a flag would be delusional. Hawthorn were dominating the competition with a steady list and strategic acquisitions and the interstaters were coming up. Collingwood had fallen from the top, and the list management queries and injuries made it impossible for them to get anywhere near contention.

You’d imagine that the succession plan was also applying its own form of pressure. Going from premiers in 2010 with a young squad, grand finalists in 2011, preliminary finalists in 2012, to needing a full-scale rebuild just a couple of years later could be seen as a transitional failure. So the impetus was to keep competing and scoring public relations wins.

Then Treloar came on the market and Collingwood pursued him as a gun mid who could possibly become elite. He was fast, he had breakaway pace (which Collingwood lacked) and he knew how to find the ball. But even here there were queries on his disposal. Perhaps that was seen as something that could improve.

Collingwood surrendered pick seven, and the following year’s first rounder, which also turned out to be the seventh pick – more than Hawthorn gave up for their future Brownlow medallist, Tom Mitchell, and more than Adelaide gave up for Bryce Gibbs.

One immediate concern about Collingwood’s list at this point was the lack of key position talent coming through. Whereas they groomed successors for Simon Prestigiacomo, Shane Wakelin, Anthony Rocca, and James Clement in that period from 2006 to 2010, they now almost criminally ignored KP height, and presumably banked on Travis Cloke, Nathan Brown, and Ben Reid to hold their positions for years to come.

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Collingwood proceeded with their on-the-run rebuild, although a number of fans queried the strategy of the acquisitions. The club seemed constantly a step behind, trying to find ways to fill that growing hole caused by the player exodus and the additions who hadn’t come on.

Adam Treloar

Adam Treloar during his time with the Pies (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

There seemed a preponderance of small-to-mid-sized flanker types, and players with questionable skills. The bright lights were Brodie Grundy, Jordan de Goey, Darcy Moore, Brayden Maynard, and Tom Langdon – players who showed genuine promise.

Now, given the backending, we’re unclear on what exactly Collingwood paid Adam Treloar in his early years. We do know that after seriously injuring both hamstrings in 2018, just one season later Collingwood decided to re-sign him for five years at $950,000.

That figure is a misnomer – it’s inflated by whatever backending they’ve done. We don’t know how much exactly, or how much it averages out to each year he was in black and white. The Bermuda Triangle holds less mysteries than Collingwood’s salary cap and has also claimed less victims.

Then Collingwood decided just a year later to trade Adam Treloar out. In his SEN interview after the disastrous trade period, Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley unwittingly gave Treloar and the other departees a back-handed slap, saying they were players he felt wouldn’t be missed.

In Collingwood’s virtual members forum – an event that promised to address the hard questions, and halfway through turned the discussion to Collingwood’s membership caps (this discussion is right up there with who shot JFK?) – outgoing general manager Geoff Walsh elucidated that strategies changed (thus the about-face), and they felt they had plenty of stock in the type of player Treloar is.

One of the biggest queries on Treloar is how he’s recovered from his dual hamstring tears in 2018. Some claim that he’s lost his breakaway pace, and his ability to kick fifty on the run. I can’t confirm or deny that, because the way Collingwood played in the 2019 and 2020 seasons didn’t give anybody space to run, and often saw Treloar being trapped inside congestion trying to feed the ball out – surely not the best use of his talents.

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It’ll be interesting to see how Luke Beveridge uses him at the Dogs – I imagine much more wisely.

The question about his disposal has existed his entire career. While there have been queries about his efficiency (again, at Collingwood, hardly new – an amazing treatise given their coach is one of the best kicks I’ve ever seen), they’ve now become grossly appreciated, almost like a subconscious attempt to rationalise the exit.

On the whole, I struggle to reconcile how Collingwood rated a player so highly in acquisition, paid him and contracted him to a high-value, lengthy tenure after a severe injury, and then abruptly decided he was not only disposable, but disposable to the extent they’d accept a lowball offer and be willing to front a big chunk of his contract for the next five years.

Nathan Buckley

Magpies head coach Nathan Buckley hugs Adam Treloar during happier times (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

And I know these questions aren’t exactly new – all the questions revolving around the core of the trades have been asked. But there hasn’t been any genuine examination of what Treloar must’ve meant to Collingwood, and what he stopped meaning to Collingwood. The virtual members forum was disappointingly perfunctory about it. Because this continues to leave a bad taste with many, and doesn’t send a good message – in any direction.

While the easily swayed have been buoyed by Collingwood’s draft haul, those players – as well as the rest of the list – now fall under the shadow of this decision-making and as far as that shadow goes, it wasn’t cast in November 2020, or even in November 2019, when Collingwood allegedly floated Adam Treloar to Gold Coast Suns in hopes of prising loose that number one pick, but all the way back to 2015 – when Collingwood first decided Adam Treloar was worth two first-round picks (and one of them a guaranteed pick seven).

It’s any club’s prerogative to change their mind – about anything. But the rollercoaster appraisal of Treloar (and the others, including Jaidyn Stephenson and Tom Phillips) is so volatile it’s difficult to reconcile it simply as an about-face, a salary-dump, or both.

It’s actually become an indictment on the decision-makers’ capacity to gauge a player’s worth (from acquisition, to contracting, to trading out), and their ability to put together a cohesive, balanced list that won’t unravel similarly in the short term.

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How does the club expect us to trust that Brodie Grundy or Jordan de Goey or Josh Daicos won’t be next? Or that in three years time, Oliver Henry might not be cast out?

With Eddie McGuire now in his final yer as president, Collingwood’s best salvo into the future would not be to anoint a successor from within, thus perpetuating everything they’ve known, but bringing somebody (or somebodies) in from the outside to rejuvenate the club and offer a fresh perspective on what exactly is and isn’t working, and as a challenge to this seesawing perspective.