Collingwood AFL coach Nathan Buckley says the return of Andrew Krakouer and Brent Macaffer at VFL level this weekend has given the club a huge boost.
Both players broke down in February with major knee injuries that required reconstructive surgery, which has traditionally been a season-ending event for AFL players.
But they’re eyeing possible returns to the AFL side for the fourth-placed Magpies, with five rounds remaining in the home-and-away season.
A big cheer went up at Collingwood’s training session on Wednesday as the pair’s return to playing football this weekend was announced to the senior squad.
Exciting small forward Krakouer kicked a career-high 35 goals in 2011 and won mark of the year. Macaffer was a premiership player in 2010 but battled injuries last season.
“At various times, the environment of a footy club is very challenging. There’s plenty of times you get knocked on your arse and it might be a bit flat around the place,” Buckley told reporters on Wednesday.
“But when you get two guys like ‘Krak’ and ‘Caf’ who have gone through what they’ve gone through and they’ve pushed through to the other side … their teammates, their coaches and everyone around the footy club are enormously proud of what they’ve been able to achieve.
“They’re more than ready. They’ve ticked every box and it’s a real fillip for the club to see those two have the chance to pull the guernsey on and run around this weekend.
“Those two boys and a couple of other of our long-termers have shown the way with their dedication and discipline and it inspires the rest of their teammates.
“There’s light at the end of the tunnel and they’ve been pushing towards it. There’s still more steps for them to take to get to where they want to get to.”
Buckley said Dale Thomas (ankle), Harry O’Brien (groin), Steele Sidebottom (quad) and Darren Jolly (soreness), who were all rested from last week’s game over bottom side Greater Western Sydney, had trained well on Wednesday.
Sharrod Wellingham returns from a three-game suspension.
“They’re all in good shape. All of those boys trained very well and will be considered for selection,” Buckley said.
“For all intents and purposes, we’ll have our best team on paper this weekend but we know how that doesn’t really equate to good performance.”