Collingwood’s self-belief received a shot in the arm just in time for Saturday’s AFL clash against Geelong, with the emergence of beanpole forward Mason Cox a key factor in the renewed sense of enthusiasm among the black-and-white faithful.
The American giant’s career-best four goals in the 78-point thrashing of Brisbane helped the Pies improve their record to 3-5 and could prove the kick-start their sputtering season needed.
“It’s about building belief through strong action and certainly that’s what Mason is getting,” Pies forwards coach Steve Grace told AAP.
“His contested marking was really positive on the weekend, as was his positioning in moving more proactively to the ball and working out the angles while dealing with the physicality of the game.
“He’s building on those capabilities each week.”
The second-placed Cats (7-1) clearly present a much sterner challenge than the forlorn Lions but the Magpies feel like they ticked off a few items in last week’s road win that had been largely missing in their game to that point.
“Clearly the result was great (for our season),” Grace said.
“But for us it was also about being able to back up the equation that if you work hard during the week and zero in on the things that matter then good things flow.”
In a further boost to Collingwood, star defender Ben Reid returns from a shoulder injury for the MCG clash, with Ben Sinclair out with a concussion.
The Cats also made one change, bringing in George Horlin-Smith at the expense of Tom Ruggles.
Like all opposition coaches this season, Nathan Buckley will have spent considerable time planning his approach to star playmaker Patrick Dangerfield, but Grace adds it’s not just about stopping one man.
“I saw some data during the week that suggested a number of their midfielders have been able to feed off Patrick and grow as players themselves with the way that he goes about it,” Grace said.
“Their contested ball numbers have certainly jumped and their clearance work is similar, so it’s no secret that those things correlate with his presence.
“But the midfield works together as a strong unit.
“It’s a little bit about what our ruckman brings with his follow-up work and then our mids being willing to put their noses in the trough and go hard.”