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Magpies wait for Williams

Ready to go: Marley Williams has been building up his fitness in the VFL after an interrupted pre-season.

Ready to go: Marley Williams has been building up his fitness in the VFL after an interrupted pre-season. Photo: Getty Images

As Collingwood contemplates how to stop the freedom with which better sides open it up, the first consideration was how to restructure its back line.

Alan Toovey's knee injury will force at least one change to the side with veteran defender Ben Johnson the most likely to come in after missing two matches with calf soreness. Johnson ran on Tuesday and is understood to be fit.

Recruit Jordan Russell's form has been mediocre but the loss of Toovey and Nick Maxwell from defence already may make the team reluctant to make more changes than necessary for now.

There are some at the club who believe the nuggety running player Marley Williams is the team's longer-term answer for a lock-down small defender but after an interrupted pre-season he may need more time in the VFL to be ready for the senior team.

Premiership forward Brent Macaffer has moved back in recent weeks and coach Nathan Buckley said he had ''an opportunity to re-establish himself as a defender and we will give him that chance''.

Small forward Ben Sinclair, who was subbed out of the game on Anzac Day might also be a casualty, having failed to hit the scoreboard this season. He has kicked only two goals in five games. Andrew Krakouer and Alan Didak continue to build their case in the VFL.

Buckley said the heavy loss to Hawthorn in round three illuminated serious concerns in the team about the lax defensive mindset across the ground.

''The public are about two weeks behind us on this one,'' Buckley said. ''We highlighted it after the Hawthorn game. We were pretty disappointed with our ability to prevent large scores. Last year Hawthorn kicked an average of 137 points against and I think they went 145 two weeks ago so it's been an issue we have been trying to address, but clearly we need to do more about it.''

The Magpies have conceded the fourth most points (532) of any team in the AFL this season, at an average of 106.4 per game.

''The stats are there for all to see,'' Buckley said.

''In regards to our scores against from turnovers in our back half and our scores against from clearances in our back half, we have been taken to the cleaners by Hawthorn and Essendon, two very good sides that have been able to maintain their composure and complete at an exception rate.

''Now whether that it our pressure or whether it is their skill, it is a bit of both and we need to look after our end of the bargain.''

On Anzac Day, Essendon again rained goals on Collingwood in the final term. Once the side fell behind, the midfielders and forwards pushed further forward of the ball rather than locking down on Essendon's running players charging away from them at stoppages.

Acting captain Scott Pendlebury bitterly admitted the team had fallen into ''cheating'' and running forward of the ball and not playing ''honestly'' like Essendon. He blamed himself and the remainder of the midfield and forwards for the habit.

''I think it's holistic,'' Buckley said. We're not defending as well as we would like to as a team. We're giving up too big a score.

''We rely on team defence … we haven't been able to do it for long enough to this point in the season.''

Without Luke Ball, a hard inside player who did the hard defensive work around the stoppages, Collingwood has often battled to halt sides. Other midfielders, such as star player Dane Swan, who were given licence to free-wheel forward, have not adjusted their game to play defensively as well as offensively.

This was an issue Buckley obliquely referenced recently in discussion of Swan when he observed the Brownlow medallist needed to now become a more rounded player.

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