Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley says rushing Travis Cloke’s AFL return will only set the out-of-form forward up for failure.
Cloke was dropped after round four and has been stuck in the VFL since, with the two-time All Australian’s future at the club a topic of much speculation.
The 29-year-old opened up about his demotion earlier this week, reiterating he wanted to stay a Magpie and detailing how he was initially “pissed off” about being axed.
Some pundits interpreted it as a swipe at Buckley but the coach felt Cloke’s comments had been misconstrued and blown out of proportion.
Buckley noted he’d spoken with Cloke daily since the radio interview and both men remain on the same page: hard work will be Cloke’s only path back to the seniors.
“Trav’s fully committed to the challenge in front of him … there are no coaches, and in particular myself, who have lost faith in him,” Buckley said on Friday.
“He understands entirely where his opportunities lie and he’s working diligently towards getting his form back and putting a block of footy together that’s going to make us better at senior level.
“There have been times when we’ve brought players in before they’re ready, seduced by history or seduced by talent. We’ve set them up for failure.
“When Clokey comes back in, he’ll come back in super ready and he’ll make us better.”
Buckley admitted that could potentially come as early as Sunday’s MCG clash with the Western Bulldogs, depending on the state of Jesse White’s ankle, which was hurt during Friday’s training session.
“We’ll know more in 24 hours but we think he’ll be right,” Buckley said of White.
Buckley noted Cloke would be a chance of a recall if White is ruled out.
“You’ve got other guys who are in the mix as well,” he added.
“Right now he’s got some solid competition … he understands that as well as anyone.”
The Cloke saga has continued to be a major talking point during the Magpies’ wins in the last two weeks over Brisbane and Geelong.
“It’s basically on the back page every day or speculated on every day,” Buckley said.
“It is so public.
“Clokey has been such a massive contributor at this footy club for such a long time, and I believe he still will be.
“That (all means) there’s a bit more speculation about it but that doesn’t change the reality, we’ll pick the best 22 to win a game of footy every week and Clokey’s aiming to prove he’s in that 22.”