Key Collingwood swingman Ben Reid is closer than ever to playing his first AFL match of the year against Carlton on Saturday as the Magpies look to snap a six-match losing streak.
After making a flying 8-3 start to the campaign, the Magpies have hit a mid-season trough for the second successive year, including a demoralising defeat last weekend to Melbourne.
A dreadful run with soft-tissue injuries has kept 2010 premiership star Reid to just four senior games since the start of 2014 – and none so far this year.
“Ben has got some solid football underneath him in the VFL, so we will go through training tomorrow and then complete the squad,” coach Nathan Buckley said on Wednesday.
“He hasn’t played football for a long time, so when we pull the trigger on him we would expect him to bring competitiveness and play his role – not unlike anyone else.”
The 26-year-old Reid, Tyson Goldsack and Jesse White could all be included for Saturday’s clash with Carlton, although Buckley said they couldn’t be the panacea for a young side whose confidence has dropped off with the long run of losses.
“Our recent form isn’t going to be turned around by the introduction of players,” Buckley said at the launch of the Peter Mac Cup.
“It is going to be turned around by the players who are there playing closer to their best.
“We haven’t done that for the last couple of weeks.”
Sixteenth-placed Carlton’s recent form is even worse than that of Collingwood, with demoralising defeats to Hawthorn and North Melbourne in the past fortnight.
“We just need to get back to playing our best footy and this is the next opportunity,” said Buckley.
“There is pressure every week that we play but it does build when you have got the losses that add up.
“It doesn’t really matter who we are playing again, we need to play our best football and we need to do it for four quarters to get the win.
“We won’t be expecting or thinking that any job is done until we have earnt it.”
Collingwood captain Scott Pendlebury believed the 11th-ranked Magpies could still be a part of the finals action, but it was up to the senior players to set the example.
“The last six weeks haven’t been ideal but we are still a shot at the finals and I think we can get our season back on track on Saturday,” said Pendlebury.