Travis Cloke can finally look forward to successive AFL matches for the first time in two months.
The Collingwood key forward earned praise from coach Nathan Buckley after kicking two goals and taking seven marks in Friday night’s 48-point win over Fremantle.
There has been plenty of attention on Cloke this season because of his form.
After playing in the opening four rounds, he was dropped for Anzac Day and did not return until round 11.
Speculation about his future with the Magpies was fuelled further when he was sent straight back to the VFL.
He was recalled for Friday night and teammates mobbed him after Cloke kicked the first goal of the match.
His goalkicking still is not great – Cloke missed a very gettable set shot in the third term – but he also kicked a booming goal from an acute angle in the last quarter.
“He played his role,” coach Nathan Buckley noted.
“It was encouraging for him – a step in the right direction.”
Cloke said in the third term, forwards such as Cloke and Jesse White too often allowed Fremantle to put extra men in defence.
It was one reason Collingwood did not kick a goal in the third.
“In the last quarter, Clokey and Jesse (White) in particular … found a little bit extra for that first 15 minutes … to stabilise the game,” Buckley added.
Friday night’s win in atrocious conditions snapped a three-game losing streak for the Magpies.
While Cloke showed promising signs in attack, at the other end Collingwood’s defence was rock solid.
Leading the charge was 2011 All-Australian Ben Reid, who was probably their best player.
Buckley noted that after being plagued by injury early in the season, the Magpies backline was starting to settle.
Reid has played 11 games this season – two more than the luckless defender has managed through the last two years.
“The best defences are settled and get used to playing footy with each other,” Buckley said.
“So having Reidy back and playing as much footy as he has after a couple of years that he’s happy to have behind him is pretty important for us.
“We want to be as stable (in defence) as we possibly can.
“Even if we had that back seven for the next month off the back of strong performances, we’ll defend better as a result.”
Friday night was only Collingwood’s fifth win this season.
Buckley said the challenge for next Saturday night’s game against arch-rivals Carlton will be to repeat what they showed against the Dockers.
“It wasn’t a perfect game, but we did what we needed to do in trying conditions,” he said.
“One thing we haven’t done often enough in the first half is bring consistent effort and consistent application, so it’s something we’ve set ourselves and the next test will be against the Blues.”