COLLINGWOOD could take inspiration from September’s best performers in 2018.
With both Richmond and Geelong drawing success from giving Dustin Martin and Patrick Dangerfield extended runs in the forward line, Collingwood can do likewise next year.
The Pies have long been searching for ways to help the promising Darcy Moore, throwing Ben Reid inside 50 last year and also giving Mason Cox a run in the side as a forward.
But with the game — and with forwards, in particular — getting smaller, Collingwood can look to how Richmond’s mosquito fleet worked so effectively in crafting its own game plan.
Collingwood’s reigning club best and fairest winner Steele Sidebottom could be the perfect man to lead the charge forward of the ball for the Pies in 2018.
He shot to prominence in his draft year after kicking 10 goals in the TAC Cup grand final and has continued his strong goalkicking record since entering the AFL system.
Sidebottom kicked 24 and 25 goals in his second and third seasons respectively, while he has had a consistent presence inside 50 ever since then.
He kicked 16 goals and had a further 13 goal assists from 22 games last year and looms as the man most likely and most able to assume the Dusty and Danger role inside 50 next year.
Collingwood’s strong midfield, which was bolstered at the draft, also allows coach Nathan Buckley the freedom to play Sidebottom forward more often.
While many fans were crying out for the Pies to claim a key-position player at the draft, they instead took gifted midfielder Jaidyn Stephenson with Pick 6. It could prove a smart move.
It further strengthens the side’s quality and depth through the midfield and will give Buckley far more options forward of the ball to experiment next season.
As ever, Scott Pendlebury is the key man for Collingwood in 2018. The Magpies skipper was in All-Australian form before a finger injury ended his campaign in Round 17. Prior to that, he was averaging 28.1 disposals and ranked inside the top 10 in the competition for both score involvements and goal assists. He’s all quality. Another finger injury sustained during the International Rules Series is unlikely to hinder his pre-season.
It will be interesting to see what direction Collingwood takes with Mason Cox in 2018. The big American played only nine games last year, but showed a lot of promise playing as the sole ruckman in the VFL. However, behind Brodie Grundy at the Pies, it’s hard to see him filling that role at senior level. Rival clubs took interest in him ahead of the exchange period, but Cox opted to remain at Collingwood. He’s been earmarked for a permanent forward stint next season, but question marks remain over whether he can adapt to that position.
THE RISING STAR
There’s no doubt Jaidyn Stephenson was one of the most talented players in the most recent draft pool. However, health concerns had clubs debating where he would fall. It was ultimately Collingwood who claimed the young midfielder with Pick 6, getting a draft steal while they were at it. He’s a strong-running midfielder who can win his own footy, while his overlap makes him a dangerous threat on the outside. He’s also clever in the forward half, where he can hit the scoreboard. Pies fans will love what they see from this youngster.
IT’S A BIG YEAR FOR …
He managed only 10 games last year, but Collingwood fans will be desperate to see more of Daniel Wells in 2018. Calf and thigh injuries hampered his 2017 campaign, but when he was on the field he was consistently among the team’s best players. The fact the club only lost two of the 10 games he played showed how important he was to the team. He was classy, won his fair share of the footy and was one of few Pies with a bit of poise with the ball. Let’s hope he can have a full run at it next season.
B: Tom Langdon, Lynden Dunn, Matthew Scharenberg
HB: Daniel Wells, Ben Reid, Jeremy Howe
C: Jaidyn Stephenson, Scott Pendlebury, Jack Crisp
HF: Jordan De Goey, Darcy Moore, Will Hoskin-Elliott
F: Jamie Elliott, Steele Sidebottom, Alex Fasolo
FOLL: Brodie Grundy, Adam Treloar, Taylor Adams
I/C: Levi Greenwood, Brayden Maynard, Travis Varcoe, Tyson Goldsack
EMG: Josh Smith, Callum Brown, Tom Phillips
OTHERS: James Aish, Jarryd Blair, Tim Broomhead, Tyler Brown, Mason Cox, Ben Crocker, Josh Daicos, Kayle Kirby, Chris Mayne, Sam McLarty, Nathan Murphy, Sam Murray, Brayden Sier, Rupert Wills
ROOKIES: Flynn Appleby, Max Lynch, Brody Mihocek, Adam Oxley, Josh Thomas