Cloke likely to return in AFL

Collingwood key forward Travis Cloke is a near certainty to make his AFL return on Friday night, in stark contrast to Sydney counterpart Lance Franklin.

Cloke trained strongly on Wednesday, only needing to pull up well to play in the crucial SCG match against the Swans after three weeks out with a calf muscle injury.

Franklin did not train earlier on Wednesday morning and the Swans later confirmed he would be sidelined again with a back injury.

“If he (Cloke) pulls up well and we get the tick there (medically), well I won’t be stopping him from playing,” Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley said.

Cloke’s return will be a huge boost for the Magpies, who broke a six-game losing streak last weekend with a scrappy win over Carlton.

They are 11th, a game and a half outside the eight with four matches left before the finals.

“Clearly, he’s an important player for us; clearly, we need to win every game,” Buckley said.

“We have that in the back of our minds.

“But we’re not going to throw anyone in who’s not 100 per cent ready.”

Fellow key position player Ben Reid made his long-awaited comeback for the ‘Pies against the Blues and kicked four goals.

Reid is equally strong in defence, but Buckley wants him to play alongside Cloke in attack.

“It adds a little bit of a different look to our forward line set-up,” Buckley said.

“While we would have liked to have had access to that a lot earlier, it gives us a little bit to think about in regards to how we can challenge the opposition back six.”

Sydney dropped out of the top four with last weekend’s loss to Geelong, but Buckley said Collingwood would expect the Swans’ best form.

“Their best footy is still really good … right up there in the competition,” he said.

“They probably have the strongest and deepest midfield going around.”

This will be the first time Collingwood play at the SCG since a late Anthony Rocca goal gave the Magpies a five-point win over Sydney in 2000.

“Footy’s footy – every oval we play on is a slightly different size and shape, slightly different surface,” Buckley said.

“It’s 99 per cent the same. It’s still footy.

“So the game will still be won on contest and a four-quarter effort, an ability to defend well and an ability to defend well.

“The Swans have shown themselves over a number of years to be a side that does all those elements particularly well.”

Collingwood have also beaten Sydney in 13 of their past 15 matches.

Meanwhile, Brent Macaffer will resume in the VFL this weekend, nearly a year after needing a knee reconstruction.

But Nathan Freeman, Collingwood’s No.10 pick in the 2013 draft, is unlikely to play again this year as he continues to struggle with hamstring problems.

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