‘Pies prepare for big AFL test

Collingwood will have a much clearer idea of where they stand this AFL season after Sunday’s big clash with North Melbourne.

Coach Nathan Buckley has set a very public agenda this week, calling the MCG match a “massive test”.

It will be the first time this season that the developing Magpies have played a top-four team from last year.

The Kangaroos also badly need a win after last weekend’s thumping from Fremantle highlighted doubts about their credentials.

Collingwood have made an encouraging 5-3 start after missing the finals last year, but they remain a difficult side to read.

Their losses have been against Richmond and Geelong – finalists from last year – and Adelaide.

“All we’ve spoken about is that this is a really good test,” said Magpies ruckman Jarrod Witts.

“Playing a quality team like North is going to show where we’re at, more so than previous weeks.

“If we play a solid game, we believe we’re good enough to match it with North.”

Witts has the same main challenge as his team – do not drop off during a match.

Just as Collingwood have paid for lapses, so the 22-year-old want to impose himself more on a game.

He played 20 match last season and this will be his fourth game back after recovering from a second shoulder reconstruction.

Buckley famously had an animated conversation with Witts on the boundary line during a game last year.

We’re getting about 85 per cent of what he’s capable of right now, and there’s gold in that last 15 per cent,” Buckley later said.

Witts is pleased with his running power since returning from the shoulder operation, but wants to have a bigger influence.

“Mine’s a little bit the same (as the team) – I want to stay involved throughout the game and not have a bad quarter, a good quarter, a bad quarter,” he said.

“That’s a challenge for me and something three games in, I need to bring.

“It just comes back to understanding your role and playing it to the best of your ability.”

One of the keys for Witts and fellow ruckman Brody Grundy is to push forward whenever possible.

If they can make themselves dangerous in attack, it clearly takes some pressure off key forwards Travis Cloke and Jesse White.

“It’s crucial that both of us can hold down that third defender and be dangerous and gets shots on goal,” Witts said.

“If Brody and I are going to play in the same team, we need to have that element of forward play, to get the most out of ourselves.”

Defender Alan Toovey is back for the ‘Pies and North recalled captain Andrew Swallow and forward Ben Brown.

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