The long wait for football in 2018 is nearly over, with a just few weeks between us and the new AFL Season. What better time to cast our eye over the competing clubs, do our best Nostradamus impersonation and have a crack at guessing what the new season holds in store.
Next up in our series of previews is Collingwood.
Why can they improve?
With a pretty similar list to the one that took the park in 2017, still heavily reliant on its talented mid-field, does Collingwood’s improvement rest squarely on whether Nathan Buckley can coach and coax the best out of it? Some might point to the effect a fit Daniel Wells had on the team when he played but expecting the silky-skilled midfielder to be regularly fit has seemed as fruitless as waiting for Mitch Marsh to score a Test Match century. Wait a minute….
What could leave them standing still?
Did we just say that they enter this season with a group not too dissimilar to the one they attacked last season? With the third oldest list in the competition and without a finals berth since 2013, could the midtable scrum be as good as this list can be? With an undersized backline and a forward line that struggles for potency, are they simply incapable of doing any better than what they have?
Why would they go backward?
An extremely harsh judgment of the Collingwood list would read – despite having some classy users of the ball in midfield, they are let down by having nobody to kick goals up forward or anybody to stop goals down back. If they live up to this assessment it is hard to see them going anywhere but backward.
Player to Watch: Mason Cox
Just the second American to make it into the AFL, Mason Cox has been a valuable contributor for the Pies in his 20 appearances since his debut in 2016. At nearly 7 foot tall and 110kgs, the 26-year-old Texan is an imposing presence and, if reports are to be believed, Collingwood has plans to use this to impact the scoreboard in 2018 and have him play deep forward for stretches. If he can prove a consistent performer in this important role, he could well be responsible for a Magpie ambush of September.
Despite Nathan Buckley signing a two-year contract extension at the end of 2017, it is hard to see the constant media speculation over his position easing without a much-improved showing this year. Unfortunately for Buckley, stories about Collingwood and the bloodlust surrounding coaches with tenuous futures sell papers as a result, the speculation will continue to hound him despite Collingwood’s best efforts to
Having been in danger of claiming the wooden spoon until the very dying stages of 2017, it is hard to suggest that a worst case scenario would be any higher than bottom four in 2018. Their inability to close down opposition teams scoring or stand tall in tight situations also makes it likely that their best case scenario may not be any better.
The year ahead in a sentence
Cold Pies on offer this year but could next year’s menu include Tom Lynch?
Click the link below to tune in to The Pinch Hitters with Boz and Pav podcast as the boys discuss what they expect from Collingwood in 2018, cricket, the Olympics and a whole lot more.
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