It won't just be the return of Dale Thomas that will delight Pies fans at Trevor Barker Beach Oval against Sandringham in the second-last round of the VFL on Saturday.
Collingwood, which needs to win its last two matches to make the VFL finals, will be buoyed by the return of veterans Alan Didak and Darren Jolly, who have been named and also aim to give the senior team a shake-up in the lead-up to finals.
Didak, who only last week denied he had retired, has spent the past week in Adelaide with an ill friend but has returned to tackle the Zebras. "He'll look to hit the ground running [in the VFL] and we'll see where we go from there," Pies coach Nathan Buckley said.
Jolly, coming off another week on the sidelines with soreness, also faces an uphill battle to squeeze back into the line-up come September. He has managed just nine AFL matches this season.
The Pies' other veteran ruckman - Ben Hudson - has played just seven AFL matches and was nursed through half a VFL game last week. Youngster Brodie Grundy has since taken the No.1 ruck role.
All eyes will be on the "extremely fit" Thomas, who is expected to play about 70 per cent of game time on return from an ankle injury.
Time is running out for recruit Clinton Young, who is still at least a week away from resuming from a recurrent hamstring injury.
■Hawthorn midfielder Xavier Ellis will return from a stint on the sidelines with a calf injury to strengthen Box Hill against the Coburg Tigers at Coburg City Oval on Sunday.
Ellis, who has played just two AFL matches this season, has spent the past seven weeks on the sidelines with a calf injury in an injury-interrupted season.
Ellis' return is timely in the lead-up to finals and strengthens the Hawks' depth in the midfield with Liam Shiels, having returned last week through the VFL from an ankle injury. Michael Osborne, Jonathan Simpkin and Will Langford were all named to take on the Tigers.
Ruckman Max Bailey will also return from a hip injury.
VFL ROUND 18
(with tips in bold)
Essendon v Frankston, Windy Hill, 1pm
Port Melbourne v Geelong, North Port Oval, 1.10pm
Casey Scorpions v Bendigo Gold, Casey Fields, 2pm
Sandringham v Collingwood, Trevor Barker Beach Oval, 2pm
North Ballarat v Williamstown, Eureka Stadium, 2pm
Coburg Tigers v Box Hill Hawks, Coburg City Oval, 2pm
Northern Blues v Werribee Tigers, Visy Park, 2pm