Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley is confident Travis Cloke’s best football isn’t behind him but he can’t say when the key forward will be back in black and white at AFL level.
In his first VFL game since being dropped, Cloke managed two goals and five possessions in a side well beaten by Essendon’s reserves.
His replacement, American beanpole Mason Cox, won widespread praise for his role in the Pies’ Anzac Day demolition of the Bombers, and is likely to keep his spot for the side’s trip to Perth to take on West Coast.
Buckley said Cloke, who managed five goals in the first four games of the AFL season, would be given time to rediscover his best form.
“I think Trav can still be a really damaging player in this competition … I think he’s going to be very important for us as our year progresses,” Buckley said on Fox Footy.
“We need to get the best out of him and we need to work out what that looks like.
“This is short term but he needs to find that thirst for the contest again and the second, third and fourth efforts that were so prevalent in him when he plays his best footy … we’re looking for that.”
It wouldn’t appear to be a quick fix, with Buckley admitting injuries and form had hampered Cloke for the past two seasons.
“The discussions I had with him were about getting back to enjoying his footy and finding that thirst for the contest that’s missing at the moment,” Buckley said.
“We’ll give him as much opportunity as we need to at VFL level to get that back, to prove his worth to come back in.”