Collingwood’s young rucks will lock horns with imposing GWS big man Shane Mumford on Sunday, with the outcome of that tussle set to be a key factor in the result.
Brodie Grundy and Jarrod Witts are talented youngsters who are still finding their way in the AFL, while Mumford has been praised for the way his physical play has transformed the Giants.
Pies assistant coach Scott Burns says the young ruck tandem will learn a lot from their battle with Mumford and he has backed them to hold their own.
“Everyone knows how good Mumford is – it’s going to be a great test,” Burns said.
“He’s been giving their mids a fair bit of quality supply – with their speed and run on the outside, it can cause a few headaches for opposition teams.
“But we’re really happy with the development of our two boys. They’re still young and they’re really still in the novice category in terms of experience, so any time they can play games against quality ruckmen is going to be beneficial for them and, hopefully, accelerates their development.”
Grundy sent a scare through the Pies’ camp when he suffered a blow to the head at training on Friday and was taken to hospital in a neck brace. While cleared of serious damage, doubt remains over his availability.
If the 21-year-old fails to get up for the clash, Burns has backed Jesse White, who will be playing his 100th AFL match, to partner Witts.
“Jesse’s incredibly important to our structure,” he said.
“Whether we’ve gone with one ruck or two, the role that he plays is really important. His athleticism helps us in a variety of ways up forward and in the ruck – when he does go in there, he does quite well for us. He competes well.”
Witts, rested last week, comes back into the side along with Taylor Adams, who will face his old team for the first time.
Paul Seedsman, winner of the Anzac Medal in Collingwood’s win against Essendon earlier this season, finds himself out of the line-up in what Burns says is a sign of the club’s growing depth. Jarryd Blair is out with an ankle injury, while the Giants have brought in Nick Haynes at the expense of Aidan Corr.
Nathan Buckley’s side sit fourth going into the encounter with the fifth-placed Giants, but the seven teams they’ve defeated this year occupy the bottom seven spots on the ladder.
“It is a bit hard to tell where we sit, but we know that we’ve improved as a collective,” Burns said. “And we also know that there’s a massive amount of improvement to come.”