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Opinion

The greatest Magpies of the last 50 years

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2nd March, 2021
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As the countdown to the AFL season 2021 continues and as a Magpies tragic, I thought I would take a trip down memory lane and assemble a best Collingwood team since 1970, a year that sends shivers down the Magpies’ collective spine.

I have played some players out of position in order to hopefully put the best talent on the mythical park.

Backs
Scott Burns, Ted Potter, Nick Maxwell
I have selected an out-of-position Scott Burns but reckoned on his tenacity, determination and appetite for the contest. Ted Potter is one of the all-time great defenders, not only at Collingwood but also in the league, while Nick Maxwell’s leadership traits stand out and I could not exclude a premiership skipper.

Half backs
Michael McGuane, Bill Picken, Nathan Buckley
This line may stir more controversy. McGuane and Buckley are not noted half backs although I do recall a few instances when the former did play in that role. McGuane’s creativity and Buckley’s endurance and flair complement each other, while Picken is a lock for centre half back due to his big-game performances, aerial ability and eccentricities.

Nathan Buckley #5 for Collingwood

(Photo by Hamish Blair/Getty Images)

Centre line
Darren Millane, Barry Price, Gavin Brown
This is a fine pivotal line. Millane and Brown provide the skill, physical courage, mental fortitude and determination, and Barry Price provides the pure silk. This is not to suggest that Price did not possess the other attributes. The added value of Barry Price will become evident shortly.

Half forward
John Greening, Phil Carman, Peter Daicos
A forward line to drool over! Magical, freakish skills come readily and easily to mind. It also brings a touch of sadness and ‘what might have been’. Greening could and would have been anything, but for that dark day in 1972, while Carman’s absence in the 1977 grand final against North Melbourne cost the club a flag. The 1977 premiership could indeed have been a cakewalk if both Greening and Carman were in the side. I cannot in any shape or form ignore Daicos. Poise, balance, goal sense and an uncanny ability to read the ball and seemingly other players’ minds make him a walk-up start in this team.

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Full forward line
Peter Moore, Peter McKenna, Dale Thomas
Peter Moore’s flexibility wins him the slot here, and in 1977 he was Collingwood’s leading goal kicker. The mop top, Peter McKenna, wins the full forward spot, on the back of his run of three consecutive goal-kicking tons in the early 1970s, and his deadly goal conversion. Add to this his undoubted star power and fan favourite status, and perhaps less obviously his vocal skills off field, and you have the complete package. Of course, the dynamic Price-to-McKenna combination would come to the fore in this team. Dale Thomas might be a surprise but for a time was regarded by some as the best player in the league. He would also spend considerable time on the ball in this line-up.

Ruck/followers
Len Thompson, Dane Swan, Scott Pendlebury
While there were a number of possibilities for the ruck position, I went for Brownlow medallist and multiple Copeland trophy winner, Len Thompson. While some questioned his record in big finals, he was a wonderful player, combing high skills and athleticism. Supporting Thompson are the relative newbies, Swan and Pendlebury, the former for his explosiveness, the latter for his sublime poetry-in-motion skills.

Scott Pendlebury of the Magpies celebrates a win

(Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Interchange
Tony Shaw, Wayne Richardson, Mark Williams, Travis Cloke
The interchange bench may surprise, but I have opted for added grunt and skill in the midfield through the first three while Travis Cloke lays strong claim to be one of few real power forwards for Collingwood of the last five decades, along with the Roccas.

The coach is Leigh Matthews, the captain is Tony Shaw, and the vice-captain is Nick Maxwell.

I could not overlook the legend who broke the 32-year drought, while for the leadership positions I had to go for the two premiership skippers.

Naturally, there are a number of commiserations for a side like this. These include Darren Jolly, Damian Monkhorst, Des Tuddenham, Heath Shaw, Anthony Rocca, James Clement, Paul Licuria, David Cloke, Ron Wearmouth, Alan Didak, Graham Wright, Craig Davis and Paul Williams.

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In passing, there are some interesting issues. First is the absence of an absolute elite crumber in front of goal. Second is been the paucity of power forwards of the ilk of Jonathan Brown. Finally, line-breaking speed appears to be in relatively short supply.

Nonetheless, this team would take a power of beating, especially when you consider the line-up includes ten captains, three Norm Smith winners, four Brownlow medallists, a two-time season leading goal kicker, and close to 40 Copeland trophies.