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Tale of two Pies: a story that runs hot and cold

Date

Matt Murnane

Pie mix: Scott Pendlebury and Travis Cloke have been in contrasting form this season.

Pie mix: Scott Pendlebury and Travis Cloke have been in contrasting form this season. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo and Wayne Tay

THE player behind black-and-white door No. 1 is ''playing the best footy of his career'', according to his coach.

The player behind black-and-white door No. 2 is ''not in cracking nick'', the same coach conceded yesterday.

The player behind door No. 1 has just signed a new four-year, multimillion-dollar deal that will keep him at his club until 2016. His future is certain.

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The player behind door No. 2 is coming out of contract and, if reports are accurate, has a $1 million-a-season offer on the table from at least one rival team as he negotiates with his club.

His future is uncertain.

In case you hadn't worked it out, the player behind door No. 1 is Collingwood's Scott Pendlebury. Behind door No. 2 is his teammate, Travis Cloke.

That makes Nathan Buckley the man in the spotlight yesterday as he fielded questions about his two players - the queries just as difficult to answer for the white-hot Pendlebury, as they were for the out-of-sorts Cloke.

First Pendlebury: is he the best player in the competition at the moment?

''I think the most important thing to acknowledge is that 'Pendles' is probably playing the best footy of his career,'' Buckley said. ''It's up to everyone else to speculate about where that might rank him.''

Others have been doing exactly that in the past week, so captivated by his stellar performance against Adelaide on Saturday night, not to mention his 30-disposal, four-goal effort against Geelong the week before.

Since signing his new contract just before round one, Pendlebury has been on fire, recording 29 disposals or more in eight out of nine games.

All his numbers are as good, if not better, than his career-high statistics of 2011, when he won his first Copeland Trophy.

He ranks third in the AFL for disposals, fifth for contested possessions, equal fourth for all midfielders for score assists and is in the top 10 for clearances.

He is a runaway $3.50 favourite for the Brownlow Medal in some markets, with at least one betting agency predicting yesterday that he might have already polled in six out of nine games.

''His performances over the last month have been excellent and he did it last week without Dane Swan next to him to take some of the heat from a tagging perspective,'' Buckley said.

''But he is the last bloke that is going to get carried away with it.''

The other side of the coin is Cloke. Buckley put up a good offence to the Pendlebury barrage yesterday, no spectacular fast breaks, but polished execution.

Then it was time for defence.

Since it was first revealed that Fremantle had - reportedly - put to Cloke's management the whopping $1 million-a-season offer in the lead up to round six, the reigning All-Australian centre half-forward has averaged just 11.2 disposals, down from the 15.4 he averaged in 2010 and 2011.

The 25-year-old has also kicked just six goals in the past four games. You could write your own ticket for Cloke to win the Brownlow.

There is no doubt the big Pie is low on confidence, Buckley said, but his coach is just as sure that he will turn it around.

''In the interim, he has been able to influence games when they've been on the line over the last four to six weeks,'' said the coach, who spent some one-on-one time with Cloke at training yesterday.

''We've just set such high standards for players like Trav. He's just an easy target at the moment.''

The statistics say Buckley has a point. For instance, Cloke is averaging 2.2 contested marks in the past month, down from 3.3 over the past two seasons.

Yet his total contested marks for the year - 25 - still ranks equal first in the AFL, and Cloke is also equal second for key forwards for total marks.

He is just not streaks ahead, like he was last year.

''When we get slowed down [he is] clearly presenting really well down the line for us. [He] competes and creates ground ball for our players,'' Buckley said of his value.

Still, Buckley knows his team needs Cloke to be more than a role player for the Pies to go all the way this year.

They need the monster who took 35 more contested grabs than anyone else in season 2011 and finished third in the Coleman Medal with 65 goals. Right now he is 15th, with 19 from nine games.

The contrasting fortunes of Pendlebury and Cloke begs another question, the biggest one asked yesterday: to what extent is the uncertainty surrounding Cloke's contract, and the interest from other clubs hitting the newspapers every other week, having on his performance?

Pendlebury is settled. Just how unsettled Cloke is, only he can answer, although Buckley made an attempt yesterday.

''[Collingwood's] Steele Sidebottom, Sharrod Wellingham and Dayne Beams are in the process of working out their next contracts and they're playing well,'' he said.

''It's an easy connection to make. But how much effect it has, I don't know.''

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Round 1
Thu, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
CAR 78 vs RIC 105 19:20MCG
Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
MEL 115 vs GCF 89 13:40MCG
SYD 72 vs ESS 60 16:35ANZ
BRI 74 vs COL 86 19:20G
WBU 97 vs WCE 87 19:20ES
Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEST
STK 78 vs GWS 87 13:10ES
ADE 140 vs NTH 63 15:20Adelaide Oval
FRE 75 vs PTA 68 18:40Domain Stadium
Mon, 06 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW 123 vs GEE 61 15:20MCG
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Round 2
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
WCE 131 vs CAR 62 20:10Domain Stadium
Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
RIC 66 vs WBU 85 13:45MCG
GWS 101 vs MEL 56 14:10SO
COL 63 vs ADE 90 16:35ES
GCF 76 vs STK 104 19:20MS
PTA 44 vs SYD 92 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
GEE 60 vs FRE 104 13:10SS
ESS 78 vs HAW 76 15:20MCG
NTH 133 vs BRI 51 16:40ES
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Round 3
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
COL 140 vs STK 66 19:50MCG
Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
CAR 84 vs ESS 105 13:45MCG
ADE 80 vs MEL 55 14:10Adelaide Oval
SYD 111 vs GWS 90 16:35SCG
NTH 105 vs PTA 113 19:20ES
BRI 58 vs RIC 137 19:20G
Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW 127 vs WBU 57 13:10AS
GEE 105 vs GCF 96 15:20SS
WCE 81 vs FRE 111 16:40Domain Stadium
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Round 4
Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
RIC 51 vs MEL 83 19:50MCG
Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
STK 81 vs CAR 121 11:10NZ
ESS 49 vs COL 69 14:40MCG
GWS 119 vs GCF 53 17:40SO
PTA 99 vs HAW 91 19:40Adelaide Oval
FRE 74 vs SYD 60 20:45Domain Stadium
Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
BRI 65 vs WCE 118 13:10G
GEE 67 vs NTH 83 15:20SS
WBU 125 vs ADE 68 16:40ES
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Round 5
Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR vs COL 19:50MCG
Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
RIC vs GEE 13:45MCG
SYD vs WBU 14:10SCG
GCF vs BRI 16:35MS
NTH vs HAW 19:20ES
WCE vs GWS 19:40Domain Stadium
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MEL vs FRE 13:10MCG
STK vs ESS 15:20ES
ADE vs PTA 16:40Adelaide Oval
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Round 6
Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
COL vs GEE 19:50MCG
Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
NTH vs RIC 13:45BA
WBU vs STK 14:10ES
GWS vs HAW 16:35Spotless Stadium
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FRE vs ESS 20:10Domain Stadium
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CAR vs BRI 15:20ES
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Round 7
Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
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HAW vs MEL 14:10MCG
CAR vs GWS 16:35ES
SYD vs GEE 19:20ANZ
WCE vs GCF 19:40Domain Stadium
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WBU vs FRE 13:10ES
RIC vs COL 15:20MCG
BRI vs PTA 16:40G
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Round 8
Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
GEE vs CAR 19:50ES
Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
STK vs WCE 13:45ES
GWS vs ADE 14:10Spotless Stadium
GCF vs COL 16:35MS
HAW vs SYD 19:20MCG
FRE vs NTH 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS vs BRI 13:10ES
MEL vs WBU 15:20MCG
PTA vs RIC 16:40Adelaide Oval
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Round 9
Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
SYD vs CAR 19:50SCG
Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
HAW vs GCF 13:45AS
MEL vs PTA 14:10TIO Traeger Park
WBU vs GWS 16:35ES
RIC vs ESS 19:20MCG
ADE vs FRE 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
BRI vs STK 13:10G
COL vs NTH 15:20MCG
WCE vs GEE 16:40Domain Stadium
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Round 10
Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
FRE vs RIC 20:10Domain Stadium
Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR vs ADE 13:40MCG
GCF vs SYD 16:35MS
ESS vs GEE 19:20ES
PTA vs WBU 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
GWS vs BRI 13:10Spotless Stadium
NTH vs WCE 15:20BA
STK vs HAW 16:40ES
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MEL vs COL 15:20MCG
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Round 11
Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
PTA vs GEE 19:50Adelaide Oval
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GCF vs FRE 13:40MS
WCE vs ESS 16:35Domain Stadium
NTH vs SYD 19:20ES
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COL vs GWS 13:10MCG
STK vs MEL 16:40ES
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Round 12
Thu, 18 JunTimes shown AEST
ADE vs HAW 19:50Adelaide Oval
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RIC vs WCE 19:50MCG
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CAR vs PTA 13:40MCG
GWS vs NTH 16:35Spotless Stadium
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Round 13
Thu, 25 JunTimes shown AEST
FRE vs COL 20:10Domain Stadium
Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
SYD vs RIC 19:50SCG
Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
HAW vs ESS 13:40MCG
BRI vs ADE 16:35G
STK vs WBU 19:20ES
Sun, 28 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR vs GCF 15:20ES
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Round 14
Thu, 02 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD vs PTA 19:20SCG
Fri, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
COL vs HAW 19:50MCG
Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC vs GWS 13:40MCG
GCF vs NTH 16:35MS
WBU vs CAR 19:20ES
MEL vs WCE 19:40TIO
Sun, 05 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS vs STK 13:10ES
ADE vs GEE 15:20Adelaide Oval
FRE vs BRI 16:40Domain Stadium
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Round 15
Thu, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
PTA vs COL 19:50Adelaide Oval
Fri, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC vs CAR 19:50MCG
Sat, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS vs MEL 13:40MCG
WBU vs GCF 16:35CAZ
NTH vs GEE 19:20ES
WCE vs ADE 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 12 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS vs STK 13:10Spotless Stadium
HAW vs FRE 15:20AS
BRI vs SYD 16:40G
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Round 16
Fri, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
NTH vs ESS 19:50ES
Sat, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
GEE vs WBU 13:45SS
GCF vs GWS 14:10MS
COL vs WCE 16:35ES
SYD vs HAW 19:20ANZ
FRE vs CAR 19:40Domain Stadium
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PTA vs ADE 15:20Adelaide Oval
STK vs RIC 16:40ES
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Round 17
Fri, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
CAR vs HAW 19:50ES
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ADE vs GCF 14:10Adelaide Oval
RIC vs FRE 16:35MCG
ESS vs PTA 19:20ES
BRI vs NTH 19:20G
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WBU vs COL 13:10ES
MEL vs STK 15:20MCG
WCE vs SYD 16:40Domain Stadium
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Round 18
Fri, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
HAW vs RIC 19:50MCG
Sat, 01 AugTimes shown AEST
GEE vs BRI 13:45SS
COL vs MEL 14:10MCG
SYD vs ADE 16:35SCG
CAR vs NTH 19:20ES
GCF vs WCE 19:20MS
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ESS vs WBU 15:20ES
FRE vs GWS 16:40Domain Stadium
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Round 19
Fri, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
ADE vs RIC 19:50Adelaide Oval
Sat, 08 AugTimes shown AEST
COL vs CAR 13:45MCG
WBU vs PTA 14:10ES
BRI vs GCF 16:35G
GEE vs SYD 19:20SS
WCE vs HAW 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 09 AugTimes shown AEST
MEL vs NTH 13:10MCG
GWS vs ESS 15:20Spotless Stadium
STK vs FRE 16:40ES
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Round 20
Fri, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
SYD vs COL 19:50SCG
Sat, 15 AugTimes shown AEST
ESS vs ADE 13:45ES
NTH vs STK 14:10BA
PTA vs GWS 16:35Adelaide Oval
GEE vs HAW 19:20MCG
BRI vs CAR 19:20G
Sun, 16 AugTimes shown AEST
RIC vs GCF 13:10MCG
WBU vs MEL 15:20ES
FRE vs WCE 16:40Domain Stadium
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Round 21
Fri, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
HAW vs PTA 19:50ES
Sat, 22 AugTimes shown AEST
COL vs RIC 13:45MCG
GWS vs SYD 14:10Spotless Stadium
GCF vs ESS 16:35MS
STK vs GEE 19:20ES
ADE vs BRI 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 23 AugTimes shown AEST
NTH vs FRE 13:10ES
CAR vs MEL 15:20MCG
WCE vs WBU 16:40Domain Stadium
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Round 22
Fri, 28 AugTimes shown AEST
GEE vs COL 19:50MCG
Sat, 29 AugTimes shown AEST
GWS vs CAR 13:45Spotless Stadium
HAW vs BRI 14:10AS
NTH vs WBU 16:35ES
ESS vs RIC 19:20MCG
GCF vs PTA 19:20MS
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STK vs SYD 15:20ES
FRE vs MEL 16:40Domain Stadium
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Round 23
Fri, 04 SepTimes shown AEST
COL vs ESS 00:00MCG
RIC vs NTH 00:00ES
HAW vs CAR 00:00MCG
GEE vs ADE 00:00SS
SYD vs GCF 00:00SCG
MEL vs GWS 00:00ES
BRI vs WBU 00:00G
PTA vs FRE 00:30Adelaide Oval
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AFL 2015
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Team P W L D % Pts
Fremantle 4 4 0 0 135.32 16
GWS Giants 4 3 1 0 133.22 12
Collingwood 4 3 1 0 128.32 12
Sydney Swans 4 3 1 0 125.00 12
Adelaide Crows 4 3 1 0 123.53 12
Western Bulldogs 4 3 1 0 104.60 12
Hawthorn 4 2 2 0 141.36 8
West Coast Eagles 4 2 2 0 124.48 8
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