Collingwood’s AFL start worries Buckley

Collingwood have scraped through for a pass mark after their patchy start to the AFL season.

Coming off a summer full of promise and expectation, the Magpies were awful in round one against Sydney.

Adding injury to insult, the career of star veteran Dane Swan is in the balance after he badly broke his foot in the loss. Surgery on Wednesday will give a good idea about his football fate.

The Magpies staged a great escape last Friday night to beat Richmond by one point.

Now they face St Kilda on Saturday at the MCG, with the rebuilding Saints showing signs they are a dangerous side if allowed to dictate terms.

“We’ve probably been five or six out of 10 in our first two weeks,” said Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley.

“We want to see our minimums at a seven and our best performances at nines and 10s.”

Buckley said it is too early to read much into statistics, but conceded their work at the contest needs rapid improvement.

“My eyes are telling me that we’re not winning as much contested ball as we’d like … or as we’ve enjoyed in the past,” he said.

“Just because we’ve done it in the past doesn’t make it happen now.”

Like Swan, ‘Pies captain Scott Pendlebury and small forward Jamie Elliott have injury issues.

Buckley said Swan’s AFL future would be very much a two-way conversation after the surgery.

“He’ll have a big say in what that looks like, given what he’s provided to the club for a long period … and the fact he’s his own man,” Buckley said.

There is also talk about whether Pendlebury is carrying an injury.

“Pendles cops a heavy knock, he dusts himself off and he gets on with business,” Buckley said.

“You’re rarely 100 per cent these days and Pendles wasn’t 100 per cent on the weekend.

“But he’ll be better this weekend.”

And Elliott’s immediate future remains unclear as he recovers from a serious back injury.

Elliott said last month the most frustrating part of the injury is there can be no timeframe on how long it will take for him to play in the AFL again.

Buckley said on Tuesday that is still the case, despite Elliott making good progress in the last week and a half.

He said Elliott could be out action for four to 12 weeks.

“I did ask him the other week – when it was at its first, if you had to play a game in a week’s time, would you have been able?,” Buckley said.

“The answer was no – it was debilitating – so we can’t muck around with this.”

Travis Varcoe will miss another week as he recovers from a hamstring injury.

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