Magpie Cloke faces chicken-egg AFL future

Collingwood are canvassing a future without long-term AFL forward Travis Cloke, while guaranteeing his contract at the club in 2017.

The power forward has been dropped for the third time this season ahead of the Magpies’ match on Friday night against the Western Bulldogs.

In a wide-ranging interview with SEN radio, Collingwood football chief Neil Balme said the 29-year-old would be in black and white next season, but left the door open for a departure.

“We’re committed to him,” Balme said. “He has a contract and we’re happy with him.”

Then Balme began thinking out loud.

“Who knows what can happen? We’re all open to whatever is going to happen,” he said.

“I can guarantee you he has a contract and we’re more than happy for that all to happen because that’s what we entered into four years ago.”

Cloke, the fourth member of his family to play for Collingwood, signed a mega-money five-year deal in 2012 due to expire at the end of next season.

But his goalkicking returns have diminished each year since 2013, coinciding with the Magpies’ slide down the AFL table.

Cloke is likely to record his worst goalkicking return this season in a decade, contributing just 10 majors in his latest run of seven matches in the side.

He bagged a four-goal haul in the Magpies’ best win of the season on the road against Greater Western Sydney in round 16.

Balme suggested Collingwood’s underperforming year meant all avenues for improvement would need to be looked at, including Cloke.

“He’s played okay but not okay enough and not quite doing what we think we need to do,” he said.

“There’s pressure for us to perform as a team.

“We want him to play. We want him to play as well as he can. We know what he can do.

“But if he’s not quite able to do it … it’s chicken or egg. (Do) you wait for him? Or do we make a decision on it?

“It’s not personal but its pretty tough. It’s tough on him but it’s tough to make the decisions.”

On the same radio station, Essendon great Tim Watson said rivals Richmond should look to bring in Cloke to assist Jack Riewoldt with the goalkicking load.

“Travis has to prove that he is a consistent player again but you would have to look at him if you were Richmond,” he said.

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