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BIG JAM for Bucks

Date

Nathan Buckley looks to have inherited a tough job, he'll need all his renowned self-belief.

Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley addressing his charges against the Blues on Friday night.

Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley addressing his charges against the Blues on Friday night. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

WE MAY never know whether Luke Ball's second knee injury was a consequence of him returning to the field, if the serious damage was done the first time and obscured, or if the two injuries were unrelated coincidences. Such questions may only be answered, or guessed at, by Ball and the club medicos.

What can be safely said, though, is that the damage to Collingwood is severe. The Pies were in trouble before Ball's fall, having lost two players to knee reconstructions, with a string of others afflicted with less serious ailments, including key defenders Ben Reid and Chris Tarrant. They have a raft of players out of form. Today, you would not back them to win the flag with counterfeit money.

Collingwood, doubtless, will recover to some degree, win games and make a fist of a troubled season. It is a team and club of considerable character. But it is difficult to see how it can seriously contend for the premiership after losing three players for the season, one of them the club's toughest inside midfielder.

Ball is gone for a year, Reid for a few weeks with another upper leg problem. The Friday the 13th game against the Blues will truly be remembered as a black and white horror show.

The Pies have - or had - a formidable best 22. Their depth of ready-made players has dwindled. All-Australian small defender Leon Davis and the useful forward/ruck Leigh Brown, have retired and, outside of their top 24 or so, there's only inexperienced kids. This was evident in round one, when they fronted up against Hawthorn with three first gamers, plus four others with scant experience. Ben Sinclair has played all three games without demonstrating he's at AFL standard. Hawthorn, in contrast, can't necessarily find a spot for premiership players Clinton Young and Xavier Ellis.

Without Ball, it will be open season on Scott Pendlebury, Collingwood's midfield playmaker and superior extractor. Pendlebury was smothered by Andrew Carrazzo in a manner that we have not seen since the smooth operator became an elite player. The opposition's focus on Pendlebury will intensify now that he doesn't have Ball in his corner. Dane Swan, at his best as a burst runner, will be required to spend more time in heavy traffic too.

Predictably, some talkback baseball bats have been out for coach Nathan Buckley and president Eddie McGuire, whose decision to install Buckley was always going to be questioned once Collingwood faltered. Buckley cannot throw the season down the river. His major challenge is to find a way to rediscover the manic intensity around the ball - and at the opposition - that typified the Magpies until the latter stages of last year. If Collingwood doesn't play with the same resolve or energy, regardless of personnel (which is what matters most), the blame will be sheeted to him and the new coaching panel. It shouldn't be forgotten that two senior assistants from the last few years, Mark Neeld and Scott Watters, have graduated to senior gigs elsewhere.

Yet, Ball's injury also provides Buckley with a partial alibi. The expectations of the club and its vast fan base will be tempered; no one, not even the most irrational Collingwood fan, is about to blame him for a treble of knee reconstructions.

Unfortunately for Buckley's Pies, the forward press no longer represents the advantage of 2010. The better teams run through what has become a ''butter press.'' Collingwood's edge, indeed, was disappearing in the final rounds of 2011, prompting former coach Mick Malthouse to make adjustments for the grand final.

The Pies also had the problem of having one-paced forwards - none of Dayne Beams, Steele Sidebottom, Alex Fasolo, Alan Didak, Andrew Krakouer or Jarryd Blair is fleet of foot. Without great leg speed, it is difficult to pressure the opposition and hold the ball inside your attacking half.

In the remains of this season, Buckley will have to find another way to stymie the opposition. Collingwood was scored heavily against by Hawthorn and Carlton. Some players, notably an out-of-sorts Harry O'Brien, have been exposed in one-out contests. The question must be asked: was O'Brien shielded by Tarrant, Reid and co and/or a defensive system that has been overtaken?

The ruck is another worry given that Darren Jolly is 30 and was smashed by Matthew Kreuzer, and that Cameron Wood, despite Buckley's optimism, mightn't cut it.

In 2012, Collingwood is paying a price, too, for the draft picks it sacrificed in pursuit of premierships. Jolly and Ball brought home the bacon but cost the Pies picks 14 and 30 and some future talent. Krakouer and Marty Clarke have also cost draft picks, albeit they also received some kids, who might offer something, from Gold Coast and Greater Western Sydney, in package deals.

Circumstances are conspiring against Buckley in what shapes as a tough introduction to senior coaching. Can they still win it? One would think not. Their chances are slim; not much better than Buckley's hope.

10 comments

  • While it's still too early to call, surely should Collingwood fail this season (and anything less than a prelim final appearance is surely a fail), evil dictator McGuire must fall on his sword. Forcing out what was without doubt the league's best coach before his time had come was bizarre, and driven only out of some kind of manic idol-lust for his deity Buckley,

    Commenter
    Jay
    Location
    Melbourne
    Date and time
    April 15, 2012, 9:32AM
    • You haters have a very short memory. In 2008/9, EVERYONE was calling for Malthouse to go -- his time was up, he'd been there too long, he didn't have a Plan B and it was time for new ideas, Collingwood had a bad list that would never make a grand final, etc. The succession plan was created. If Collingwood hadn't have lifted and won the flag in 2010, you would all be calling the succession plan the right move. Amazing how one flag changed all of your opinions of Malthouse; since he took over Collingwood in 1999, you all said he was the worst coach ever. Yet one flag, and suddenly he'ss the best coach ever.

      But hey, don't let the facts get in the way of your irrational, very disturbing Collingwood bashing. It really is pathological, I'd see a shrink if I were you guys.

      Commenter
      Long long memory
      Date and time
      April 15, 2012, 11:49AM
  • no excuses. 17 of the premiership 22 lined up there in the first quarter. it wasn't personnel, it was game plan. structures coming out of the kick-ins were pathetic- everyone looked nervous. structure when the opposition has come out have been pathetic and they go coast to coast. structures at stoppages are seeing us beat up. no, its the coaching. and by the look of the players body language (Swan & Thomas for starters), they don't look too happy about their new coach.
    what's with the game plan being unpicked too? only geelong beat the pies last year. the pies beat the other 15 teams. malthouse had this things worked out. eddie, you made a big fat mistake. admit it, pay buckley out and get mick back- our season is not lost. yet!
    and who were the bright sparks that let Leroy Brown and Leon Davis retire.
    tch tch, no excuses.

    Commenter
    chugga
    Location
    jacksonville, FL
    Date and time
    April 15, 2012, 9:57AM
    • 'In 2012, Collingwood is paying a price, too, for the draft picks it sacrificed in pursuit of premierships.'

      Well I know of 5 teams (saints, scraggers, tiges, dees, freo) who would all pay any price for a premiership. Picks 14 and 30 for a premiership - youv'e got to be kidding.

      And Krakouer no leg speed? Its not 100m race its the first 5-10 that matter and that was Krakouers majic.

      Commenter
      kepler-22b
      Date and time
      April 15, 2012, 10:36AM
      • Like the decision to impose on one's body a full length sleeve tattoo, eddy's decision to bring in buckley over Malthouse
        "seemed like a good idea at the time".
        Decide in haste eddy, repent at leisure.
        ha ha

        Commenter
        nkelly
        Date and time
        April 15, 2012, 10:42AM
        • I feel sympathy for Luke Ball having done his acl. But for those of us with all our teeth and more than half a brain, his injury was yet another bit of good news. After the unbridled joy of last year, sitting through yet another of collingwood's GF failures, we can point and laugh at Eddie and Nathan and proclaim they got it wrong. Plus it makes watching and attending collingwood games so much sweeter. I guess you reap what you sow, and you've got to lie in your bed if you made it. Collingwood = Losers. Losing. Lost

          Commenter
          Satan's Little Helper
          Date and time
          April 15, 2012, 11:21AM
          • Q. what has one hundred legs and eight teeth?
            A. the colliwobbles cheer squad.

            Commenter
            nkelly
            Date and time
            April 15, 2012, 11:46AM
        • And for pies supporters wanting to fight back - I'll take 3 flags in 5 years over 2 flags in 54 years. Collingwood = side by side...we lose together

          Commenter
          Satan's Little Helper
          Date and time
          April 15, 2012, 11:32AM
          • Great headline! Didn't get it till I noticed the first two words were all capitals

            Commenter
            lagrangian
            Date and time
            April 15, 2012, 12:26PM
            • Loving the ignorant anti-Collingwood/Buckley rubbish. Was Buckley reponsible for our late season drop off last year? The retirements of Brown & Davis? The inuries to Ball, Krak, Macaff, Ried & Tarrant? After being up for the best part of 5 seasons there was always going to be a bit of a drop off. It is now a good opportunity to re-invigorate the side & for Buckley to put his stamp on the way we play. Unfortunately for all other teams supporters, all is not lost. Looking forward to a late season resurgence.

              Commenter
              Damian White
              Location
              Melbourne
              Date and time
              April 15, 2012, 12:43PM
              Comments are now closed
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