Pies coach Nathan Buckley after Sunday’s match says he wants Travis Cloke to be “over ready” when he returns. Photo: AFL Media/Getty ImagesA trio of untried Magpies are in the frame to make their AFL debut on Saturday in front of a bumper crowd against arch rivals Carlton at the MCG, while Travis Cloke is a chance for a senior recall as well.
Collingwood will be forced to make at least a few changes this week with Ben Sinclair (concussion) and Tom Langdon (ankle) both injuring themselves last round against West Coast while Travis Varcoe (hamstring) and Taylor Adams (knee) both remain unavailable.
That has opened the door for some of the Magpies’ in-form VFL players to get their chance and coach Nathan Buckley nominated Tom Phillips, Ben Crocker and Rupert Wills as the best chances of playing their first AFL games this week while James Aish, Matthew Goodyear, Brent Macaffer and Jesse White were also in the mix.
Cloke has spent the last two weeks playing in the reserves and while Buckley didn’t discount naming him to face the Blues, he would prefer the key forward to have “a block of form” under his belt and come back into the team “over ready”.
“He was better last week,” Buckley said of Cloke.
“But when we talk about Travis Cloke and the situation he’s in, we’re not actually talking about round seven, it’s about getting him back to playing his best footy for the rest of his footy career, really, not just for this week.
“With our profile at the moment, our next cabs off the rank could be first-gamers. There’s a couple of spots up for grabs there for this week’s game … it’s exciting times for some boys that are performing in the VFL.”
Buckley denied there was a temptation to rush Cloke back into the team in an attempt to stretch Carlton’s defence with Jacob Weitering absent due to a shoulder injury.
“I don’t think it (losing Weitering) is going to hurt them too much beside the fact the young guy is a really good decision-maker and an exciting prospect going forward,” he said.
“I don’t see it as a weakness that you can really take too much of an advantage of.”
Buckley reiterated he would have no qualms playing Cloke and Mason Cox in the same forward line.
Skipper Scott Pendlebury and Anzac Day medallist Steele Sidebottom were restricted to light duties at training on Thursday, but Buckley was in no doubt that the star pair would line up on Saturday.
The Magpies desperately need to beat the Blues to stay in touch with the top eight or risk wasting another season by slumping to 2-5.
Buckley agreed that the formline was irrelevant to a certain extent whenever Collingwood and Carlton played each other.
“This is a big game for us, this is a massive game, and we’re really looking forward to the occasion,” he said. “We see them as a real good test for us … it is a great occasion.”
Collingwood isn’t the only big Victorian club under the pump with Richmond wallowing in 15th spot on the ladder with a 1-5 record.
Like Buckley, Tigers coach Damien Hardwick has been the subject of intense scrutiny this season.
After accidentally ringing Hardwick’s wife, Buckley finally got in touch with the former Essendon and Port Adelaide enforcer this week to lend his support.
“A couple of years ago I would have not really have had a great deal of empathy for opposition coaches, even though we share a very similar role, but it was just like they’re the things that you’re going to go through – the ups and the downs, the highs and the lows,” Buckley said.
“But I think (thanks to) the Coaches’ Association through (CEO) Mark Brayshaw, we are as tight as I’ve felt it in my five years as a senior coach.
“I just felt like it was the right time just to say g’day and check how things were going.”
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