Collingwood are one of the more difficult teams to predict this year, given they are so susceptible to injury. If everything goes right, they could return to September footy for the first time since 2013.
We could almost repeat the same tale as last season: Collingwood have an outstanding midfield.
Scott Pendlebury remains amongst the top five or so mids in the game as he has been for almost a decade, with Steele Sidebottom, Daniel Wells, Adam Treloar and Taylor Adams a brilliant supporting cast. The next tier of Levi Greenwood, Jack Crisp and the almost forgotten Travis Varcoe are all capable AFL footballers with young gun Jordan de Goey to return from his club imposed suspension at some point. Add gun ruckman Brodie Grundy to the line-up and the Pies boast a very formidable engine room.
Outside of a tricky first six weeks, they also have a very reasonable draw. They only play two finalists twice (Richmond and Essendon), 14 games at the MCG and travel just five times – the equal fewest of any team. Nathan Buckley may find himself under the pump early, however, with GWS, Adelaide, Essendon and Richmond (on a four-day break) all in the first six weeks.
Again, we can repeat the same tale as last season: the Pies lack quality talls. Darcy Moore’s move into defence is a gamble, we know about as much about Mason Cox’s prospects as we did this time last year, Ben Reid is always an injury-risk and Lynden Dunn and Tyson Goldsack are solid, yet unremarkable, key defenders.
Up forward, Nathan Buckley’s team will again have to depend on other unreliable players to score. Jamie Elliot and Alex Fasolo have had interrupted pre-seasons, Will Hoskin-Elliot arguably had his best season but kicked just 18 goals and as we all know the Chris Mayne recruitment has been a disaster.
They just need everything to go right from an injury standpoint. And an elite tall forward at the end of the season would be handy (Hello, Tom Lynch).
Brodie Grundy is coming off his best season and could become game’s leading ruckman sooner rather than later. He has averaged more disposals per game than any other ruckman over the last two years and has the highest “relative rating” of 51% according to Champion Data. The only question mark remains Nathan Buckley’s hope to rotate him forward with Mason Cox given the 23 year-old’s paltry return of four goals last year.
The Next Big Thing
Lifelong Pies fan Jayden Stephenson was the side’s first pick in the 2017 draft and in a very even year, he could very well be the best player from that class. The tall midfielder is fearless in his willingness to use his speed to take a game on. Given the questions around his heart condition appear to have subsided, Stephenson is a big chance to have an impact in his first season.
The Final Word
It’s a gigantic if, but if everything goes right for Collingwood they are capable of playing finals in 2018. The more likely scenario is improvement, but another mid-table finish.