It’s bound to be another intriguing season at the Holden Centre, having not played finals football since 2013. Nathan Buckley has placed himself under the guillotine, the proud club expects success, and new recruits will be desperate to make an immediate impact. Celebrating the 125th anniversary of the Collingwood Football Club, their performance will again be a weekly discussion point for fans and analysts alike.
FB: Jackson Ramsay, Lynden Dunn, Tyson Goldsack
The Pies’ backline has been an unsettled commodity throughout the Buckley era, and an inconvenience that is likely to continue in 2017. The return of Jackson Ramsay bolsters the run and carry out of the back half, providing rebound and dare, alongside the ability to defend the opposition’s dangerous small forward. Goldsack has been out of favour in recent times, however should serve as the 3rd tall, with the capacity to play small or tall any given week.
The full-back position will come down to Lynden Dunn and Henry Schade, both new to the club. Dunn offers strength and experience to the young side, as oppose to the youthful option in Schade. Buckley knows what he’s getting from Dunn, which is why I’ve given him the nod, nonetheless, Schade could certainly take his place if the Pies’ go down the development path.
HB: Brayden Maynard, Ben Reid, Jeremy Howe
Another case of lacking continuity, the half-back line is capable of becoming an elite force, given a clean run. After an underwhelming start to the season up forward, Howe transformed his game into an intercepting, rebounding half-backman, finishing 5th in the Pies B&F. Howe’s ability to read the play and set up attacking forays was a revelation, and will only improve after a settled pre-season. Maynard will man the other flank, playing with immense passion and intensity, which makes up for his occasional clangers.
Ben Reid is arguably Collingwood’s most valuable player, transforming the backline every time he takes the field. The former All-Australian CHB is an exceptional intercept marker and ball user, and the focal point of an often-shaky defence. If Reid can stay in one piece, it’ll go a long way to a return to finals football.
C: Daniel Wells, Taylor Adams, Steele Sidebottom
One of the most polished centre lines in the AFL, combining ball-winning ability with speed and accuracy by foot. The football world know what Sidebottom will produce. Class, poise, and the ability to deliver on the big stage. Daniel Wells on the other hand, is the burning question. The injury-riddled veteran was a significant gamble for the Pies to take on, and one that could come back to bit them if his ‘old man’s calf’ doesn’t get right soon. Yet a fit and firing Wells will be a vital addition to team structure, an experienced player who can link the midfield and forward lines with his sublime foot skills and ability to operate in traffic.
Taylor Adams is expected to have an excellent season both on the ball and running from the half back line as recently appointed vice-captain. Adams’ grunt and ruthless tenacity at the football makes him an invaluable member of the Collingwood midfield, and just needs some luck on the injury front in order to make the step into stardom.
HF: Jamie Elliot, Jesse White, Jordan De Goey
Perhaps the ‘make or break’ of the Collingwood lineup, the half-forward line possesses talented players who haven’t reached their full potential. Jesse White has been a whipping boy over the years for Sydney and Collingwood supporters alike, however, can be a genuine contributor in the right system. Blessed with speed and agility, White putting together a solid season will drastically assist the development of prodigal son, Darcy Moore. Prior to the broken hand incident, De Goey was looking like a potential breakout candidate, dominating his only JLT community series game in the midfield against the Bombers. A re-energised and determined De Goey will be a welcome addition to both the midfield and half-forward line once his suspension is served.
The health and form of Jamie Elliot could determine the Pie’s fate. The excitement machine is capable of taking screamers, kicking miraculous goals and being a real game winner up front for the Pies, something they sorely missed last season. Elliot’s ability both in the air and at ground level should create a dangerous scoring threat in Buckley’s forward setup.
FF: Alex Fasolo, Darcy Moore, Chris Mayne
Full of potential and promise, is this the year the goals start sailing through? The departure of Travis Cloke has loaded immense pressure on the shoulders of 26 gamer Darcy Moore to be the primary target. Moore has shown flashes of brilliance on numerous occasions, yet queries over his young body to carry the forward line are well warranted. Fasolo will play a similar role to Elliot, providing a scoring threat in the air and on the ground, as evident by his 25 goals in 12 games last season.
The recruitment of Chris Mayne was a controversial move, yet one addressing the lack of tackle pressure in the Pies’ forward half. If Mayne can kick 30+ goals whilst pressuring the opposition ball movers, he could prove an influential addition.
F: Brodie Grundy, Scott Pendlebury, Adam Treloar
The star power of the Collingwood lineup, one can bank on Grundy, Pendlebury and Treloar to produce week in, week out. At just 23 and 24 respectively, Grundy and Treloar are coming into their own as dominant forces of the competition. The aggressive ruckman experienced a somewhat breakout back half of the 2016 campaign, averaging the most disposals of any ruckman in the competition. Simultaneously, Treloar produced a stellar first season as a Magpie, ultimately finishing equal 5th in the Brownlow medal and 2nd in the Pie’s B&F.
Accompanying the duo is the maestro, Scott Pendlebury. ‘Pendles’ has been a silky-smooth operator for the Pies for the best part of a decade, and nothing will change in 2017. The skipper’s coming off yet another B&F, and will have to repeat his consistent brilliance to give his side a chance of finals football. An achilles concern has shadowed Pendlebury’s start to the season, but being the ultimate professional he is should not be a significant issue going forward.
INT: Jack Crisp, Travis Varcoe, James Aish, Josh Smith
Crisp and Varcoe add pace and toughness to the lineup, and are walk-up starts. The remaining 2 spots are up in the air for a large group of players. I’ve selected Aish and Smith as a result of their youth and impressive finishes to the 2016 season, over more experienced journeyman Greenwood and Blair. Tom Phillips, Will Hoskin-Elliot, Matthew Scharenberg, Mason Cox, Tom Langdon, Ben Sinclair, Lachlan Keefe, and Henry Schade are also all capable of grabbing their opportunity (all of the mentioned players will likely feature at some point given the injuries to key players).
Perennially difficult to predict, Collingwood enter 2017 with a genuine opportunity to return to September action. Given a reasonably clean run of injuries, the Pies’ have the ability to get clicking early and make a run at finals. The questions remain, however; Can they get Wells/Elliot/Reid up and going? Will the back half hold up? Will Buckley’s system hold up? The talent on the list is good enough, but if they can put it all together in 2017 will be revealed.
Predicted Finish: 7th-12th