Collingwood are no closer to guaranteeing Travis Cloke a position in the Anzac Day clash with AFL rivals Essendon.
Cloke, who has battled with form through the Magpies’ inconsistent start to the season, is one of a number of players under an injury cloud and coach Nathan Buckley says he will assess his side after a Saturday training hitout.
“We’ve got a squad of 28 and are in no position to make definitive statements given we’ve got blokes who are under injury clouds,” he said on Friday.
Cloke was severely hampered late in the Magpies’ last-up loss to Melbourne, struggling with an elbow complaint.
He joins Ben Reid (knee), Ben Sinclair (concussion) and Tom Langdon (sore) in doubt for the banner occasion with the Bombers.
But it’s unclear whether the decision on Cloke is purely form or fitness.
Buckley was loath to answer questions on the 29-year-old on Friday, at one point saying “I don’t really want to focus on one player”.
He doesn’t buy into the theory that Essendon’s undermanned defence could play Cloke back into form, saying James Gwilt and Michael Hartley had stood up as key backmen this year.
Buckley did make it clear that he doesn’t care about reputations when he names his 22, so long as he gets a performance.
“If you’re looking at the form across our team there’s a lot of players that need to lift,” he said.
“We’re going to pick the best side that we possibly can around contests and workrate.
“They’re two areas we haven’t put our best foot forward on.
“Whether they’re first gamers or 200-gamers is less relevant.”
That opens the door for rookie American big man Mason Cox to make a debut on the biggest day of the home and away season.
Cox was named at full-forward in a 25-man squad for the match, next to Cloke, with fellow forward Jesse White the only player dropped from the extended line-up.
Buckley was also unclear as to whether Cox would survive a Saturday cull to lace up on Monday.
“To be around the mark as he was last week is a sign that he’s doing a lot of things right,” he said.
“If it happens it will be a good opportunity.
“It’s still mid-week for us. I’m looking forward to getting a solid training session in (on Saturday).”