Collingwood already have the midfield grunt necessary to play finals football but Nathan Buckley believes his retooled attack will be a key to the Magpies’ AFL premiership aspirations in 2016.
Accused of relying too heavily on star forward Travis Cloke in the past, Buckley has spent a good portion of this pre-season program refining his side’s attacking structure, with off-season recruit Jeremy Howe a key component.
“We’ll have a multitude of forward targets,” Buckley said on Friday. “A functional, damaging front six is what we’re after … Clokey is a part of that but he’s not going to be all of it.
“We’ve made slight changes to the way that we attack … I’ve been on the record saying that we need to be a more-efficient side.
“We’ve got great contested ball attributes and the want to get in and under and do the tough stuff … but we just need to keep adding that efficiency of transition into our game plan in both offence and defence.”
Howe, used predominantly in defence at Melbourne last year, has been brought in to play as a mobile forward to complement key targets Cloke and Darcy Moore.
Buckley has liked what he’s seen so far.
“He’s come off a hip operation but he’s training pretty well,” he said. “What he shows on the track is his speed and endurance repetition.
“He’s shown some good things, but there’s still plenty to go.”
But while Howe looms as a key piece of Buckley’s forward puzzle, perhaps the most vital inclusion overall for the Pies next season will be a fit and firing Ben Reid in the back half.
The 26-year-old has been cruelled by soft-tissue injuries that have restricted him to just nine games over the past two years but Buckley is cautiously optimistic those troubles are behind him.
“He’s going really well but we’re not counting our chickens,” he said. “He’s had a really strong off-season … to prepare his body for the rigours of the season. All he can do is come out here and train at his capacity at full load, which is basically what he’s been doing.
“We’re hopeful and bullish about being able to get access to him for a full season.”