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Tale of the tape for your AFL team in 2018: Collingwood


Will Hoskin-Elliott seals a win in the last game of 2017 against Melbourne. The Pies missed finals, but remained a hard team to beat. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Tale of the tape for your AFL team in 2018: Collingwood

Ronny Lerner    

COLLINGWOOD
2017 record: 9 wins, 12 losses, 1 draw (13th)

THE INS
Sam Murray (Sydney), Jaidyn Stephenson (Eastern Ranges), Nathan Murphy (Sandringham Dragons), Tyler Brown (Eastern Ranges), Flynn Appleby (GWV Rebels), Brody Mihocek (Port Melbourne), Jack Madgen (Delta State University, USA)

THE OUTS
Lachie Keeffe (delisted/GWS), Jesse White (retired), Liam Mackie (delisted), Mitch McCarthy (delisted), Henry Schade (delisted), Ben Sinclair (retired), Jackson Ramsay (delisted)

THE STRENGTHS
Collingwood has one of the best midfields in the competition when it’s up and running. Any coach would give an arm and a leg to have the likes of Scott Pendlebury, Adam Treloar, Steele Sidebottom, Taylor Adams and Daniel Wells (when fully fit) running through the middle along with ruckman Brodie Grundy. The emergence of Jeremy Howe as a bona fide gun defender was also a highlight in a disappointing year. His incredible aerial feats and uncanny ability to read the play turned him into an indispensable member of the side. The Magpies also displayed great fighting spirit in 2017. Despite not making the finals for a fourth consecutive year for the first time since the turn of the century, more often than not they were a hard team to beat. They won nine games, drew with runners-up Adelaide and only two of their 12 losses were by over 30 points. To maintain their competitive edge even after their season was essentially over after round 16, and as scrutiny gradually intensified on under-fire coach Nathan Buckley, was a credit to them.

THE WEAKNESSES
While the Magpies have got one area on the ground right, there isn’t much supporting their stellar midfield. Their backline is worryingly undersized and their offense is fairly mediocre. Thirty-somethings Lynden Dunn and Tyson Goldsack are their only recognised key defenders and while Ben Reid would certainly bolster that department if he is taken away from the forward line, the developing Darcy Moore would be left to take the No.1 defender and his confidence would be at risk of nose-diving yet again. That scenario would probably lead Mason Cox to be drafted in which is hardly the kind of foil Moore would want in an ideal world, though Grundy has reportedly been earmarked to spend more time in attack next year. The 2017 game plan had serious deficiencies as well, not least of all the Pies’ horrible efficiency when going forward. The Magpies ranked fourth-last in the competition for goals per inside 50 (23.2 percent) and their attacking forays often appeared to lack method and structure. Buckley was also criticised for being too reactive. Their list profile is a concern as well. Despite not making the finals since 2013, Collingwood have the third-oldest list in the competition. Hawthorn is the only other club who didn’t feature in the 2017 finals series whose list is in the top eight for age. Given the Hawks featured in nine of the previous 10 Septembers, their presence there is understandable. Collingwood also has the equal-third most experienced list. If the Pies fail to make the top eight again in 2018, their finals drought might not even have reached its halfway point yet.

ONE TO WATCH
Jordan De Goey could make Collingwood’s on-ball division even more potent next year if his rate of progression continues in the upward direction. After missing the first three games of 2017 due to a broken hand and then the next three games due to a suspension for lying to the club about how he sustained the injury (he did so in a bar fight), he went a long way to winning back respect by having arguably his best year to date. The extremely talented 21-year-old is a damaging ball user who knows where the goals are. With 50 games now under his belt, don’t be surprised if he takes the next step in his fourth season.

UNDER THE PUMP
James Aish has officially reached the crossroads of his career. He arrived at Brisbane with much fanfare as a pick No.7 and was greeted with even more publicity when he defected to Collingwood after just two years in the sunshine state. But after four seasons and 55 AFL games, the hype has largely failed to match the output. Spent most of 2017 in the VFL, which is a bit of an indictment given how badly the senior team performed. He finds himself out of contract at the end of next season, and if he fails to bed down a regular spot in the team, it could be his last.

RONNY LERNER’S BEST 22
B: Tom Phillips, Lynden Dunn, Matthew Scharenberg
HB: Jeremy Howe, Tyson Goldsack, Jack Crisp
C: Steele Sidebottom, Taylor Adams, Daniel Wells
HF: Will Hoskin-Elliott, Ben Reid, Travis Varcoe
F: Alex Fasolo, Darcy Moore, Jamie Elliott
Foll: Brodie Grundy, Scott Pendlebury, Adam Treloar
Inter: Jordan De Goey, Brayden Maynard, Tom Langdon, Levi Greenwood
Emerg: Josh Thomas, Tim Broomhead, Mason Cox

If Varcoe, Reid and Wells can play more than 15 games each next year, it would go a long way to helping the Magpies end their finals drought. It won’t come as a shock if precocious father-son picks Josh Daicos and Callum Brown are in the best 22 by the end of the season.

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