Collingwood has officially landed the services of key forward Daniel McStay with the forward calling the AIA centre home through unrestricted free agency after departing the Brisbane Lions.
He arrives at the club on a five-year deal after wanting to return to Victoria to be closer to family after nine years and 161 games at the Lions.
Donning the black and white, can McStay’s arrival help Collingwood go a few steps further in 2023?
Filling a void
Collingwood has been in the market for a key forward for several seasons now. After being in the market, for now, Tiger Tom Lynch in 2018, the Pies haven’t found an answer to fill that key forward void.
It’s what it lacked in the Preliminary Final against Sydney, having that strong presence up forward, with the Sydney defenders able to stop plenty of Collingwood entries going inside forward 50.
McStay might be that option. This season McStay kicked 25 goals from 22 games including a career-high four-goal haul against Carlton in Round 21.
Having that option in the forward line to either take a contested grab and kick the goal or to bring the ball to the ground for the likes of Brody Mihocek, Jamie Elliott, Jack Ginnivan, and Ash Johnson could see Collingwood go one step further in 2023.
There are question marks on how McStay will go being the number one forward after playing as the third string in a potent Brisbane forward line for several seasons.
Having McStay in the forward line will stretch some team defences, with the 27-year-old more than likely to take the opposition’s best defender each week which allows for the likes of Mihocek and Elliott to expose the opposing team’s defence.
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What does McStay’s arrival mean for Collingwood’s other forwards?
The juggling act in Collingwood’s forward line will be one to watch next season, with McStay expected to hold that key forward position and Bobby Hill coming in, it will be important to get the balance right going into next season.
Young forward Oliver Henry is expected to be the one coming out of that Collingwood side, wanting to join his brother Jack at Geelong.
With the emergence of Ash Johnson midway through last year, it forced Henry into the VFL for the back half of the season, although he did feature as the medical sub for the Magpies for a handful of games.
McStay’s arrival will make Henry’s chances of cementing a spot in Collingwood’s best 22 a lot harder.
Henry played 15 games for Collingwood in 2022, kicking 21 goals including four goals against Fremantle after coming on as the medical sub.
After starting the year well before going down with a shoulder injury that kept him out for most of the season, Nathan Kreuger may be another one squeezed out of Collingwood’s best 22.
Kreuger made five appearances in the black and white, including two as the medical sub in the Qualifying and Preliminary Final respectively. He kicked four goals across 2022, kicking two goals against Adelaide and Brisbane respectively.
Key position depth
With the expected departure of Brodie Grundy to the Demons, having that extra versatility in the ruck, especially in the forward 50 will be a handy thing for the Magpies to have up their sleeves.
McStay has proved that he can be a handy second ruck with the elimination final against Richmond the prime example. With Oscar McInerney going down with a concussion in the first quarter, McStay had to step up to the plate.
He finished the elimination final with 23 disposals, 10 hit outs, five marks, and a goal and proved vital in Brisbane’s two-point win over Richmond.
He’d be working with the likes of Darcy Cameron who was able to fill the void left by Brodie Grundy when the star ruckman went down with a PCL injury during the ANZAC day clash against Essendon.
Cameron played the forward ruck role in 2022, averaging 17.6 hit-outs across 24 games as well as kicking 20 goals for the season.Embed from Getty Images
McStay also has the capacity to play in defence and match up on key forwards, an area Collingwood has been lacking in since the departure of Jordan Roughead who retired during the 2022 season.
The ability to have McStay down in defence is another handy card for Craig McRae to draw next season.
When a big key forwards gets off the leash, as Tom Lynch did back in Round 8, kicking six goals for the game, having that extra option in defence will be a good alternative to fall back on for the Magpies going into next season.
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