Collingwood’s injury woes are easing but coach Nathan Buckley won’t rush the return of any of his underdone or out-of-form charges.
The AFL club’s injury list, headed by Dane Swan and Jamie Elliott who could miss the rest of the season, is starting to become a lot shorter.
Key defender Ben Reid (shoulder) trained well on Thursday and is in line to face Geelong at the MCG on Saturday, while Marley Williams (toe) and Tyson Goldsack (thumb) are set to feature in the VFL on the weekend.
Williams has played 60 games for the Magpies but the rebounding defender will need to earn his spot in the seniors.
“At his best, he’s a very good player for us. He was a bit flat in his first couple of games this year and then he got injured,” Buckley said.
“He hasn’t had a great start to his 2016 campaign and we’d want to see him put a solid block of footy together to come in – ready to perform and ready to play at his best.
“If you bring blokes in underdone, it doesn’t actually serve the team or the individual.”
The same sentiment applies to James Aish and Travis Cloke, at different stages of their career but attracting plenty of attention.
Cloke, who hasn’t played AFL since round four, is low on confidence and looks a shadow of the power forward who helped deliver Collingwood the 2010 premiership.
“A guy that’s played a lot of senior footy and is challenged with this, this is probably as tough a situation as you can find yourself in,” Buckley said of the 237-gamer.
“We’re coaching him hard and finding triggers for him to see the benefit of why a little bit of change or a little bit of extra effort is important for him.
“It’s relatively simple internally. We just need to get him back to playing his best footy. He wants to do that, we want him to do that and that’s his challenge.”
“It just comes back down to who is the best 22 for us … Trav’s not in that mix yet.”
Neither is Aish, the off-season recruit from Brisbane who has failed to fire in his five games at Collingwood.
“He had a really good game (in the VFL), 13 tackles and was able to get his hands dirty … he’ll continue his development and progress but it won’t be at AFL level this week,” Buckley said.
“Too much focus on one bloke … 20 years old. He’s just come into our system, third year in the AFL.”