Elliott to miss AFL opener with back issue

Collingwood admit they are unsure when last season’s club leading goalkicker Jamie Elliott will return to the AFL as he recovers from a back injury.

While Neil Balme expects Elliott to still play an important role this year, he said the small forward would definitely be out of action for round one of the regular season.

Elliott has pars defect, a defect of the vertebra that often affects the lower back, and was already ruled out for Friday’s opening NAB Challenge match in Geelong against the Cats.

“We’ve decided we’re going to take him out of the (football) program for three to four weeks and not do the genuine footy stuff – let him settle,” Balme said.

“We’re pretty confident at that stage he should be right to go again.

“In terms of when he should play, clearly he won’t play round one.

“We’re pretty optimistic he will have a big impact for the rest of the season, but we can’t say exactly when yet.”

Balme said Elliott’s current problem was similar to, but not the same as, the back injury that sidelined him last July for two games.

Friday’s match will feature star Geelong recruit Patrick Dangerfield having his first AFL hitout for the Cats.

James Aish also leads the newcomers in the Magpies’ squad for the Simonds Stadium match.

Dangerfield was the off-season’s biggest free agency signing and his move from Adelaide is a key reason why Geelong are so bullish about their 2016 prospects.

He was named in Geelong’s leadership group at their Tuesday night season launch.

Likewise, Aish will add depth and class to Collingwood’s midfield as they try to end their two-year absence from the finals.

Collingwood also recruited Adam Treloar from GWS to boost their onball options, but he had off-season surgery and will not play.

The Magpies also left out Jamie Elliott, Tyson Goldsack and Matthew Scharenberg as they recover from injury, while coach Nathan Buckley is unsure when Melbourne recruit Jeremy Howe will be available as he comes back from finger surgery.

Captain Scott Pendlebury, Tom Langdon, Ben Reid, Marley Williams and Travis Cloke are other significant names missing from the Magpies squad of 29, which will be trimmed to 26 for the match.

But Dane Swan, Alan Toovey, Steele Sidebottom and Nathan Brown will add some experience.

And Darcy Moore will play after a solid pre-season.

It will be Brent Macaffer’s first game for the Magpies since round 22, 2014.

He missed all of last season after a knee reconstruction.

The match will feature two acting captains, with Geelong’s Joel Selwood yet to recover from his foot injury.

Jimmy Bartel, Selwood’s brother Scott and Mitch Clark also will not play.

But the Cats named former Carlton player Lachie Henderson, ex-Gold Coast ruckman Zac Smith and fellow recruit Sam Menengola in their squad.

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